Although the communist regime in Cuba is weakening and its economy is crumbling, it still poses a great threat to the security of the United States and democratic countries in the Western Hemisphere.
The imprint of the regime’s systems of intelligence and subversion is seen in the assault on democratic institutions in the region.
From enabling repressive systems in Venezuela and Nicaragua to the hijacking of legitimate social protests in Colombia and Chile for the sake of radical agendas, the poisonous influence of Cuban totalitarianism is within reach of achieving Fidel Castro’s goal of creating a new bloc of United Socialist Republics in the American Western Hemisphere.
The monstrosities carried out against liberty and human rights in Nicaragua and Venezuela constitute not only a transgression on the sovereignty of its citizenry but also outright defiance of the norms and standards established in the Inter-American system throughout decades of struggle.
Because there have been little consequences for them, the Ortega, Maduro and Díaz Canel dynasties and their potential Marxist-Leninist descendants feel emboldened by their aggressive moves to control the hemisphere as they are cheered on with both financial and operational support from Chinese and Russian intelligence.
One effective consequence is the U.S. sanctions placed on the regime and some of its officials.
Since the U.S. began tightening sanctions in the post-Obama era, the regime has faced more spontaneous social protests, deteriorating infrastructure and a bankrupt economy as it desperately clings to outdated, corrupt Stalinist economic policies.
As a result, the regime is losing control over its population. There will soon be an opportunity for the Cuban people to reclaim their country and transition it to a democratic system—providing the U.S. has the moral courage to continue levying economic sanctions.
When considering whether or not to remove sanctions, the Biden Administration should equally consider the impact the regime has had on promoting its intelligence operations throughout Latin America and consider the torture, imprisonment and even death many Cubans have suffered to procure their freedom.
If the spread of totalitarian ideas continues, it will ultimately result in an unprecedented threat to US national security. The only way forward for both the security of the U.S. and the entire Western Hemisphere is to achieve true democratic change in Cuba.
This is why the Biden Administration should do four things:
First, it should start working with the European Union and other democracies in a concerted diplomatic effort to assert international pressure against the Cuban communist regime.
Second, the U.S. should decline any unilateral concession to the Cuban dictatorship or direct sanctions on the individual decision-makers within the regime. Taking such a stalwart position will help counter the aid and assistance sent by Russia, China and Iran while also compelling the regime to take a significant step toward a political opening.
To be sure, some have erroneously argued that sanctions hurt the Cuban people, but the reality is the real economic stranglehold was not placed on them by the United States but rather the regime. From the beginning, the Cuban regime used such methods to control its population and stifle progress for the Cuban nation, particularly in agriculture and its food supply.
Third, as a condition for removing sanctions, all repression must cease, all political prisoners must be released, and civil society, including multiple political parties, must be legalized and tolerated. The island must also hold internationally supervised multiparty elections.
Fourth, instead of removing sanctions, the Biden Administration should work with the different movements of the Cuban Resistance inside and outside the island. This would demonstrate U.S. recognition of a federated alternative to the Communist Party and would be a significant step for the Biden Administration to help effectuate democratic change in Cuba.
Taking the aforementioned steps would offer significant help to the suffering Cuban people, help that is long deserved, and necessary to maintain the Western Hemisphere as a bulwark of freedom—and desired by the vast majority of Hispanics in the United States.
• Orlando Gutierrez is the Coordinator of the Assembly of the Cuban Resistance, a U.S.-based non-profit pro-democracy organization.