Experts Criticize Biden’s Changing Policies for Cuba and Venezuela

One expert says avid pursuit of Caracas crude follows 'brutal' mugging of energy policy by political realityA discussion hosted by conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation gave rise to questions about U.S. President Joe Biden’s recent moves to ease restrictions on Cuba and Venezuela—including his actions to step up Venezuelan oil production. “At a time when the Biden administration is restricting domestic energy, he’s giving the [Venezuelan] dictator [Nicolás] Maduro the green light,” said Mike Gonzalez, host of the May 31 event “Cuba and Venezuela Policy in Biden’s America Last Agenda.” Gonzalez is The Heritage Foundation’s Angeles Arredondo senior fellow. On May 16, the White House announced a range of new policies on Cuba. The actions may mark the resumption of a trend under the Obama administration that former President Donald Trump had reversed. Biden has moved to reinstate a family reunification program, eliminate a $1,000 remittance cap, and resume “educational travel” to the island nation. According to an unnamed senior administration official, the new approach to travel will include “specifically authorizing commercial and charter flights to locations beyond Havana.” The United States has also permitted John Kavulich, who describes himself as a citizen of both the United States and Canada, to invest in a Cuban company—possibly the first such direct investment since 1960. The Miami Herald reported that the agreement between Kavulich and the Cuban business, which he declined to name, was negotiated by Robert Muse, a Washington attorney. Muse also represented the opposition research firm Fusion GPS in its response to a probe by former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes. On May 17, a day after announcing its softer policies on Cuba, the Biden administration stated that it would ease some sanctions on Venezuela. It would also allow the U.S. oil company Chevron to negotiate with Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, PDVAS. The move came after senior U.S. officials visited Venezuela in early March. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted the attempt to drive a wedge between Caracas and Moscow, as well as to replace Russian oil with petroleum from the socialist South American dictatorship. Jose Cardenas, a former senior official at the U.S. State Department, suggested that there has been a “consistent ideological undertone” to the Biden administration’s actions on both Cuba and Venezuela—a perception that could be reinforced by its sometimes rocky relationship with Jair Bolsonaro, the conservative president of a top U.S. ally, Brazil. Bolsonaro recently claimed that Biden snubbed him at last year’s G20 meeting. Cardenas noted that Venezuela’s oil production has fallen greatly in recent years, calling into question the wisdom of U.S. overtures to that regime. Victoria Coates, distinguished fellow for strategic security studies with the American Foreign Policy Council, made a similar point. “They [the Biden administration] think that there’s this mythical supply of Venezuelan crude that’s somehow going to save their chances in November. That’s false,” said Coates, who served on the National Security Council and in the Department of Energy under Trump. “What we’ve watched unfold over the last 18 months is an energy policy that has been brutally mugged by political reality, in terms of extremely high gas and diesel and natural gas prices.” Cardenas and Carrie Filipetti, another Trump administration alum, stressed that the Cuban government had stepped up its repression of dissidents in recent months, following anti-government protests in the summer of 2021. “Particularly at a moment where Russia is otherwise engaged, for us to now be extending a hand to the Cubans at precisely the moment where the regime could suffer even more is absolutely insane to me,” said Filipetti, who’s now affiliated with The Vandenberg Coalition. She and other panelists said Latin America has become the site of a crucial Great Powers competition involving Russia, China, and, to a lesser extent, Iran. Filipetti also took issue with the use of the word “migration” rather than immigration when describing the massive flow of people from Venezuela, Cuba, and other countries to the United States. “I think it’s a weird word to be using,” she said. “These are people who are coming to the United States with the intention of immigrating here and living here. I do think it’s important that we use the language of immigrating, because they’re not just trying to come through. “If you want to address the root causes of immigration, addressing the dictatorships in the region is your No. 1 strategy for doing that.” Filipetti cited the flight of an estimated 6 million people from Venezuela in recent years in regard to her point. State Department officials didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time. Follow

Experts Criticize Biden’s Changing Policies for Cuba and Venezuela

One expert says avid pursuit of Caracas crude follows 'brutal' mugging of energy policy by political reality

A discussion hosted by conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation gave rise to questions about U.S. President Joe Biden’s recent moves to ease restrictions on Cuba and Venezuela—including his actions to step up Venezuelan oil production.

“At a time when the Biden administration is restricting domestic energy, he’s giving the [Venezuelan] dictator [Nicolás] Maduro the green light,” said Mike Gonzalez, host of the May 31 event “Cuba and Venezuela Policy in Biden’s America Last Agenda.”

Gonzalez is The Heritage Foundation’s Angeles Arredondo senior fellow.

On May 16, the White House announced a range of new policies on Cuba. The actions may mark the resumption of a trend under the Obama administration that former President Donald Trump had reversed.

Biden has moved to reinstate a family reunification program, eliminate a $1,000 remittance cap, and resume “educational travel” to the island nation.

According to an unnamed senior administration official, the new approach to travel will include “specifically authorizing commercial and charter flights to locations beyond Havana.”

The United States has also permitted John Kavulich, who describes himself as a citizen of both the United States and Canada, to invest in a Cuban company—possibly the first such direct investment since 1960.

The Miami Herald reported that the agreement between Kavulich and the Cuban business, which he declined to name, was negotiated by Robert Muse, a Washington attorney.

Muse also represented the opposition research firm Fusion GPS in its response to a probe by former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes.

On May 17, a day after announcing its softer policies on Cuba, the Biden administration stated that it would ease some sanctions on Venezuela. It would also allow the U.S. oil company Chevron to negotiate with Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, PDVAS.

The move came after senior U.S. officials visited Venezuela in early March.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted the attempt to drive a wedge between Caracas and Moscow, as well as to replace Russian oil with petroleum from the socialist South American dictatorship.

Jose Cardenas, a former senior official at the U.S. State Department, suggested that there has been a “consistent ideological undertone” to the Biden administration’s actions on both Cuba and Venezuela—a perception that could be reinforced by its sometimes rocky relationship with Jair Bolsonaro, the conservative president of a top U.S. ally, Brazil.

Bolsonaro recently claimed that Biden snubbed him at last year’s G20 meeting.

Cardenas noted that Venezuela’s oil production has fallen greatly in recent years, calling into question the wisdom of U.S. overtures to that regime.

Victoria Coates, distinguished fellow for strategic security studies with the American Foreign Policy Council, made a similar point.

“They [the Biden administration] think that there’s this mythical supply of Venezuelan crude that’s somehow going to save their chances in November. That’s false,” said Coates, who served on the National Security Council and in the Department of Energy under Trump.

“What we’ve watched unfold over the last 18 months is an energy policy that has been brutally mugged by political reality, in terms of extremely high gas and diesel and natural gas prices.”

Cardenas and Carrie Filipetti, another Trump administration alum, stressed that the Cuban government had stepped up its repression of dissidents in recent months, following anti-government protests in the summer of 2021.

“Particularly at a moment where Russia is otherwise engaged, for us to now be extending a hand to the Cubans at precisely the moment where the regime could suffer even more is absolutely insane to me,” said Filipetti, who’s now affiliated with The Vandenberg Coalition.

She and other panelists said Latin America has become the site of a crucial Great Powers competition involving Russia, China, and, to a lesser extent, Iran.

Filipetti also took issue with the use of the word “migration” rather than immigration when describing the massive flow of people from Venezuela, Cuba, and other countries to the United States.

“I think it’s a weird word to be using,” she said. “These are people who are coming to the United States with the intention of immigrating here and living here. I do think it’s important that we use the language of immigrating, because they’re not just trying to come through.

“If you want to address the root causes of immigration, addressing the dictatorships in the region is your No. 1 strategy for doing that.”

Filipetti cited the flight of an estimated 6 million people from Venezuela in recent years in regard to her point.

State Department officials didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.


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