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Biden Weighing Options On Cuba, Including Remittances, Amid Mass Regime Arrests Of Protesters

OPPRESSED IN HAVANA TOO A Black anti-government protester being beaten and arrested by Cuban police during island-wide demonstrations on Sunday.
Ramon Espinosa
An anti-government protester being arrested by Cuban police during island-wide demonstrations last week.

With more than 500 anti-government protesters believed locked up in Cuba, President Biden is looking to help families there without helping the regime.

This post has been updated.

With hundreds of anti-government protesters now under arrest in Cuba, President Joe Biden is under increasing pressure to respond — and opinion is mixed in Cuba and in Florida about what he should do.

Rights groups say Cuban police have detained more than 500 people after last week’s unprecedented nationwide protests. Biden is now considering increasing staff at the U.S. Embassy in Havana and getting U.S. cash remittances sent to families in Cuba again after they were tacitly halted last year under the Trump administration.

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Many protesters inside Cuba support resuming remittances to give people there some relief, amid the country’s economic collapse.

“We think sending remittances again would be a positive step given Cubans’ suffering right now,” said Manuel Cuesta Morúa, a spokesman for the new Cuban dissident umbrella group, the Democratic Transition Council, who spoke with WLRN from Havana.

But he added dissidents want to work with Biden to prevent Cuba’s communist regime from pocketing such a large cut of that money, often 10% of the funds in the past (though new measures introduced last year in Cuba have technically stopped that).

“We have to find mechanisms to ensure it goes more directly to people here,” Cuesta Morúa said.

Until that’s possible for certain, say Cuban exile leaders like Miami Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, Biden should not resume remittances. Diaz-Balart insists Biden should instead coordinate greater international pressure on the Cuban regime.

Dissident groups like the Democratic Transition Council are also calling for more concerted U.S. and international measures to force democratic and economic liberalization concessions from Havana.

Biden says he is also working to get more internet access to Cubans on the island, who have had many of their social media platforms largely shut down by the regime.

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. Contact Tim at tpadgett@wlrnnews.org
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