Spoiler Alert: It has nothing to do with U.S. sanctions and everything to do with socialism.
Letters on root causes for mass migrations out of Cuba and Venezuela
Back on June 4, 2023, The Hill published my OpEd “Why Cubans leave” and apparently it was not read, or did not make a convincing argument on Capitol Hill.
On May 10, 2023 a group of House Democrats led by Representative Veronica Escobar sent a letter to President Biden asking him to end sanctions on Cuba and Venezuela. They claim that sanctions are a root cause for the “unprecedented number of undocumented immigrants and asylum-seekers” entering the United States, but left out of this argument is the ongoing case of Nicaragua under the Sandinista regime of Daniel Ortega.
During the same period of time according to the Center for Global Affairs & Strategic Studies (GASS) at the School de Derecho-International, Universidad de Navarra:
Trade between the United States and Nicaragua reached a record $8.304 billion in 2022, an increase of 21.97% over the previous year, which also saw a significant jump after the trade moderation of the pandemic 2020. In those two years, while political Washington has sought ways to force President Ortega to retrace the path of authoritarianism, trade between the two countries grew by 67.15%, according to U.S. Census figures.
If what this group says in their letter were true, then Nicaragua (with CAFTA, a preferential trade arrangement with the U.S.) would not have had 163,876 Nicaraguans flee to the US in FY2022 from a country with a much smaller population than Cuba’s 11 million. What has been happening at the same time as trade has boomed between the United States and Nicaragua? A brutal crackdown on human rights defenders, civil society, and the political opposition.
Ortega has increasingly suppressed political dissent, violently cracking down on 2018 mass protests that followed government reductions to social security benefits (killing more than 300 and injuring thousands), shutting down hundreds of nongovernmental organizations, and holding more than 200 political prisoners, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The end result of this repression is seen in the existing regime in Cuba. The Cuban dictatorship does not recognize a right to conscience when it comes in conflict with the tenets of Marxism-Leninism. Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported on May 9, 2023 that “a Baptist student in Cuba has been threatened with expulsion from his university because of his refusal to sign an oath promising to defend socialism and Marxist-Leninism.” Senator Robert Menendez in a letter addressed to these members on May 11, 2023 highlighted that it was both the repression and destruction of national economies corruption and incompetence.
“The truth is that Cubans and Venezuelans are leaving their homeland because of one simple fact: they are suffering under the yoke of brutal dictatorships that violently repress their citizens and that have destroyed their countries’ economies through widespread mismanagement and graft,” Chairman Menendez wrote. “These actions, not U.S. sanctions policies, are responsible for the ongoing exodus of Venezuelan and Cuban refugees and migrants. Removing U.S. sanctions on Cuba and Venezuela will only betray our democratic values and further empower criminal dictators. Such an approach would do nothing to resolve the underlying factors driving these crises, nor address the broader hemispheric challenges that are leading to unprecedented levels of migration, including another criminal dictatorship in Nicaragua, a failed state in Haiti, worsening criminal activity in Mexico and Central America, and enduring economic challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Like their Cuban, and Venezuelan counterparts it is the dictatorship that drives the exodus both through repression and economic inefficiencies outlined above by Senator Menendez, but also through weaponizing migration to draw concessions from the United States.
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