Biden says he would return to Obama-era relations with Cuba

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A report by Laura Kelly for The Hill.

Former Vice President Joe Biden said Monday he would return to Obama-era policies of engagement with Cuba and reverse the Trump administration’s sanctions if he wins the White House race in November.

“In large part, I would go back,” Biden said in an interview with a CBS affiliate in Miami. “I’d still insist they keep the commitments they said they would make when we, in fact, set the policy in place.”

President Trump in 2017 reimposed economic sanctions on Cuba, imposed travel restrictions that had been relaxed under former President Obama and largely abandoned diplomatic engagement with the country.

Those moves were part of the Trump administration’s efforts to pressure Cuba over its human rights record and its support for Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela, whose presidency the U.S. considers illegitimate.

Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said Monday he would balance engagement with Cuba and sanctions to address the country’s backing of Maduro.

“Well, they’re having great difficulty propping up Maduro, number one, Maduro is in real trouble,” Biden said. “Number two, there’s no reason why we cannot still sanction them. But failing to recognize them at all is a different thing than sanctioning them.”

Biden said the Obama-policy of increased engagement with Cuba led to strengthening relations in the Caribbean and Latin America.

“This is more than about Cuba, it’s about all of the Caribbean and it’s about all of our friends and allies in Latin America,” he added.

Last month, Biden took issue with controversial statements on Cuba by his former Democratic presidential rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who suggested the Castro regime had redeeming qualities such as implementing a literacy program.

Biden said at the time that former President Obama’s engagement with the country was meant to liberate Cubans from Fidel Castro and later his brother Raul Castro.

“[Obama] was trying to change Cuba policy so the Cuban people would get out from under the thumb of Castro and his brother,” Biden said during a CNN debate on March 15.

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