The Biden administration's review of the US policy toward Cuba has not moved an inch over the past five months because it is a low priority for the White House at the moment, The Washington Post reported, citing anonymous sources. The issue is said to be currently stuck somewhere between "too hard" and "not worth it", the sources described the situation.
"We have an entire world and a region in disarray. We are combating a pandemic and dealing with a breaking down of democracy in a whole host of countries. That is the environment we are in", the anonymous administration official told the newspaper.
The source also noted that when the administration moves to handle the Cuba matters, it will do so with the American "national security interest[s]" in mind.
The official further detailed that the political background has changed since the Obama administration engaged in diplomatic ties with Havana in 2015. According to the newspaper's source, the Biden administration knows what was undertaken under Obama and also what was subsequently done under Trump, but what the White House doesn't see are "positive" steps made by Cuba itself.
Another reason why the Biden administration gives US relations with Cuba a low priority right now is because an improvement of ties between the two nations is opposed domestically by some. Influential New Jersey senator, and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Menendez, has opposed the move in Congress, the WaPo noted. Menendez plays an important role in issues that Washington considers to be priority, and hence the White House is in no rush to seek changes, according to the outlet.
Menendez, a US-born descendant of pre-communist Cuban immigrants, objects to a restoration of ties with the island nation unless and until Havana "takes steps to restore and respect" the rights of its citizens.
The Cuban Foreign Ministry had high hopes for restoring relations which were abruptly cut off under the Trump administration which returned Cuba to the US list of state-supporters of terrorism. The top Cuban diplomat, Minister of Foreign Affairs Bruno Rodriguez, stated that political and ideological differences are not an "impediment to a respectful and civilized relationship" with its neighbours. After seeing the Biden administration make no attempts at mending ties, Rodriguez slammed the White House for making empty promises and seeing no progress.
Complex Issue of Mysterious 'Energy Attacks'
One of the reasons the US has only a nominal presence in Cuba is a series of cases in 2017 which saw American diplomatic workers fall ill for no apparent reason. At some point, Washington began to suspect that the diplomatic staff at the consulate were victims of an attack by a mysterious "sonic" or "directed energy" weapon of unknown origin and quickly recalled most of the personnel.
Little is known about the nature of these attacks except that American authorities initially ignored the issue but later initiated a full-scale probe into the matter. Media reports claim that Washington had a number of suspects, including Cuba and China, but recently it has been primarily suspecting Russia. Moscow, Havana and Beijing all deny allegations of being involved in these purported directed-energy attacks.
Regardless of who was behind the attacks and whether they actually had taken place (one theory suggests the symptoms might have been caused by the sound produced by local insects, the short-tailed crickets), the US is concerned about how safe it would be to restore relations with Cuba now and whether the incident might repeat itself, the Washington Post reported.
"If we can find a way to open the consulate again safely, we will do so. We’re conscious of the fact that if we open it again and something happens, then we’re not opening again for a very long time", the anonymous administration official reportedly said to the newspaper.
While there have been reports of American diplomats in other countries, particularly China, also suffering the same 'Havana Syndrome' symptoms - dizziness, an unsteady gait and visual disturbances – these mysterious attacks complicate US relations only with Cuba.