The White House is not expecting any policy shift toward Cuba in the near term, although this week’s Communist Party congress could be the last with a Castro at the helm of Cuba’s all-powerful political institution.
Watch Psaki’s remarks in the player above.
At the White House Friday, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said “a Cuba policy shift or additional steps is currently not among the president’s top foreign policy priorities.”
Six years after the death of Fidel Castro, Raul Castro, the younger brother of Fidel is being watched to see if he fulfills his commitment to give up the reins of the only political organization permitted in the country of 11 million people.
Raul Castro in 2016 said that he would give up the post of party secretary-general at the party’s eighth congress, which is scheduled to begin Friday. Standing down would complete the move to turn control over to a younger generation of revolutionaries led by Miguel Díaz-Canel, who took over the presidency from Castro in 2018.
President Joe Biden campaigned on the promise to partially revive the Obama administration’s opening that saw the U.S. raise the American flag at its long-shuttered embassy in Havana, ease the decades-old trade embargo and boost air connections between the two countries.
Most of those policies were reversed by Trump administration, which at the last minute even declared Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism despite having helped broker a peace deal between Colombia’s government and leftist rebels.
The issue of refugee resettlement in the U.S. also came up at Friday’s press briefing at the White House. Biden has signed an order to speed refugee admissions, but doesn’t lift Trump’s historically low refugee cap of 15,000 refugees for this year.
“It took us some time to see and evaluate how ineffective or how trashed in some ways the refugee processing system had become, said Psaki, referring to actions by the Trump administration.
“And so we had to rebuild some of those muscles and put it back in place, she said.
Biden, instead, is adjusting the allocation limits set by Trump, which officials said have been the driving factor in limiting refugee admissions.
The new allocations provide more slots for refugees from Africa, the Middle East and Central America, and lift Trump’s restrictions on resettlements from Somalia, Syria and Yemen.