The meeting comes weeks after Cuba saw the biggest protests in decades, when thousands took to the streets to protest the lack of food and medicine as the country goes through a severe economic crisis made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic and US sanctions. Meanwhile, Democrats are also under pressure to take a tougher line against the Cuban regime amid the inroads made by former President Donald Trump in 2020 among Cuban Americans in Florida.
Biden is also expected to discuss his administration’s efforts to establish Internet access for the Cuban people, the official said.
The president will meet on Friday with Felice Gorordo, CEO of eMerge Americas and co-founder of Roots of Hope; Yotuel Romero, singer of Cuban hip hop group Orishas and author of Patria y Vida, the song that has become the protesters’ anthem; Ana Sofia Pelaez, founder of the Miami Freedom Project and former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, according to the official.
The Biden administration last week sanctioned a key Cuban official and a government special forces unit known as Boinas Negras for human rights violations following the historic protests. The sanctions the president is expected to discuss on Friday would be separate from those previously announced sanctions.
The president issued a statement condemning the mass detentions and “mock trials” of protesters. Biden said in a statement at the time that the actions were “just the beginning” and that the United States “would continue to sanction those responsible for the oppression of the Cuban people.”
The president also said his administration was working with civil society organizations and the private sector “to provide Internet access to the Cuban people that circumvents the regime’s censorship efforts.”
The president also asked his administration to examine remittances to Cuba, or the practice of Americans transferring money to their Cuban relatives, to determine ways for those residing in the United States to send money. money in the country.
The Cuban government controls the financial sector and all communications on the island, and Biden said he believes under the current circumstances, remittances will end up in the hands of the regime.
Bypassing the government to send money or improving and expanding internet access is a challenge that other US administrations have tried and failed to overcome, but the problem has become increasingly urgent to the following historical and generalized demonstrations.
Biden has said during his presidential campaign that he will attempt to overturn Trump-era policies on Cuba which he says “hurt Cubans and their families.” But Biden’s review of those policies remains ongoing, and people familiar with the discussions told CNN that the review is unlikely to result in a return to the policy of normalizing relations with Havana. Obama era.
The Cuban government has shown no sign in recent years of easing its political and economic repression of the Cuban people, which has dramatically narrowed the Biden administration’s options to return to normalized relations.
South Florida Democrats have privately and publicly urged their party leaders to support the protests against the Communist regime in Cuba. These Democrats believe that standing alongside the Cuban people could help the party regain ground with the state’s various Hispanic voters, nearly half of whom voted for Trump in 2020 with an swing of nearly 10 points from the state’s. four years ago.