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The Key to Renormalizing US-Cuba Relations

Although the Biden administration excluded Cuba from this year's Summit of the Americas, it has also signaled an interest in improving US-Cuba relations. To do so, it will need to tie the issue of compensation for past property confiscation to a broader agreement to help open up and modernize the Cuban economy.

CHICAGO – The Summit of the Americas, now taking place in Los Angeles, is shining a spotlight on how much has changed since US President Joe Biden was last in the White House. Since January 2017, Venezuela has become a failed state, and migration from Central America has fueled political polarization in the United States. Brazil elected a tropical version of Donald Trump as president, and Mexico elected a left-wing populist.

But one thing has not changed: Cuba remains a one-party state and a thorn in the side of US foreign policy and democracy-promotion in the region. Accordingly, the Biden administration decided to leave it off the summit’s invitation list (along with Venezuela and Nicaragua).

Nonetheless, the administration also recently announced that it will reverse the Trump-era sanctions on Cuba. In doing so, Biden has begun to shift America’s Cuba policy back toward the approach taken by his former boss, US President Barack Obama. In 2015-16, Obama re-established diplomatic relations with Cuba, conducted an official state visit to Havana, and loosened some of the restrictions on American travel and business dealings with the island. The idea was that such “positive engagement” would help foster economic and political change in Cuba and in the region more broadly.

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