President Joe Biden has finally learned the lesson that each of his 11 predecessors had to grudgingly accept when it comes to Cuba: Some U.S. interests can only be advanced by engaging with Havana. After a policy review that lasted 15 months, during which former President Donald Trump’s draconian economic sanctions remained in place, the State Department recently announced it will relax the measures that have had the greatest direct impact on the Cuban people.
The change comes at a moment when irregular migration from Cuba is aggravating the crisis on the U.S. southern border and Latin American heads of state are threatening to boycott the upcoming Summit of the Americas if Cuba is excluded.
Biden’s new measures are not a return to former President Barack Obama’s policy of normalization. They represent a limited, unilateral relaxation of specific sanctions that, taken together, look more like Obama’s first-term Cuba policy than the historic breakthrough of restoring full diplomatic relations announced in December 2014. But they will have an enormous impact, improving the standard of living for millions of Cubans and reducing the drivers of irregular migration.