The US currently has a trade embargo against Cuba, which has been in the news recently due to protests against the latter's government.

During the Trump administration, these sanctions were tightened. The Biden administration has continued this policy, including maintaining the enhanced sanctions. As Foreign Policy magazine notes:

As a candidate, Biden pledged to reverse Trump’s hawkish sanctions-led policies, arguing “the crackdown on Cubans by the regime has gotten worse under Trump, not better.” Yet, a half-year into his administration, as on so many issues from Afghanistan to trade, Biden’s policies are effectively a continuation of Trump’s.

That said:

  • The embargo is relatively unpopular with Americans. A majority opposed it the last time Gallup polled it, in 2015, with some evidence of an upward trend. Based on statements from Democratic politicians, it seems likely that opposition is higher within the Democratic Party.

  • Even a slight majority of Cuban-Americans opposed the embargo as of the most recent poll I could find (admittedly, not a very recent one).

  • As noted in the article, as a candidate, Biden was opposed to at least the enhanced sanctions.

Further, the Democratic Party currently enjoys a majority in Congress with Vice President Harris's tie-breaking vote, so Republican opposition is relatively unimportant.

Given that the policy appears to be unpopular with his party, unpopular with the country as a whole, and something that Biden himself is opposed to, it seems noteworthy that Biden has continued both the original embargo and the enhanced sanctions imposed by the Trump administration.

Has Biden indicated his reasoning in any statements or interviews, or is there any other evidence as to why he is pursuing this policy?

2 Answers 2


There are few things that you should keep in mind:

  1. Rather than say that Trump tightened the sanctions it is more correct to say that he rolled back Obama relaxation and restored the previous situation.

  2. Obama waited until the end of his presidency to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, he probably knew that his actions were short lived, so it is more likely that he did it for internal politics rather than a real change in foreign politics.
    Maybe Biden will do the same and relax the sanctions at the end of his term, but only if the polls will predict a Republican victory.

  3. The sanctions do not weaken the regime, they never did, actually the result is the opposite, it seems that the US administration prefer on their border a regime that they don't like, but is predictable.

  4. Probably behind the scenes there is also the opposition of the health care providers which would not like an eventual competition from Cuba.

  • 1
    FluidCode I have never heard Bullet 4 before (not surprisingly, I'm not very attentive at the best of times), but that one simply has caught me unawares... do you have a link(s) to support it? (or even a google search I could use to learn more?
    – CGCampbell
    Jul 23, 2021 at 15:01
  • 1
    Rolling back a relaxation would be, literally, tightening. Undoing half a century of hostility is not an overnight process. Raul Castro took office in 2011. Both nations announced agreements to ease relations in late 2014, More than two years before the end of Obama's term. So not "at the end." Actions followed in April 2015, so those changes were in place almost two years before Trump rolled them back. Points #1 and #2 seem very disputable, if not outright incorrect, to me. Jul 23, 2021 at 15:52
  • @CGCampbell. Following the relaxation in the US-Cuba relation, there was a cancer vaccine from Cuba (Cimavex) which was approved by FDA for clinical trial (you may search for it online). This I remember in particular because, at the time, there was lots of speculation in CNBC and online about how cheap and potential for growth the Cuban pharma would be in the market... Besides, Cuba is said to export medical service and education to the 3rd world countries, so I wouldn't doubt that may be something to consider as well.
    – ajbg
    Jul 24, 2021 at 22:16

The embargo is still supported by the majority of Cuban-American in Florida (who also supports Trump). It is not politically convenient to to stir that community again before 2022/24.

BTW, the protest in Cuba are anti-establishment, not anti-embargo (even if the Cuban state keeps blaming the embargo and the yankee imperialists for all their own failures).

  • 1
    1. Is it? See the second bullet point of the answer. 2. If Cuban-Americans are mostly firm Trump supporters, one would expect that to decrease Biden's interest in courting them. 3. Who said that the protests were against the embargo?
    – Obie 2.0
    Jul 23, 2021 at 1:18
  • 2
    False. Despite having the highest standard of living in the Caribe, the 60+ year illegal US economic blockade of Cuba has everything to do with the hardship in Cuba. This is well documented. Jul 23, 2021 at 4:03
  • @BeginnerBiker - Is it? On the higher end, I have seen estimates of losses of 600 million USD per year: around 0.5% of Cuba's GDP, and around 10% of its total trade. It is difficult to see how this is responsible for "hardship" in Cuba, particularly since many countries in the region that are not subject to embargoes are actually less wealthy, as you correctly noted. Indeed, the embargo has proved ineffective at prevented Cuba from engaging in trade with China and Spain, and even a little with the US (about 4% of its trade until recently). It contributes, but it is hard to see it as primary.
    – Obie 2.0
    Jul 23, 2021 at 4:11
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    – CDJB
    Jul 26, 2021 at 9:25

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