I admire President Biden, but in his press conference of July 15, 2021 he made an appalling, and purposeful, misrepresentation of Cuba with respect to both remittances and vaccines.

BIDEN: “We would consider… to help the people of Cuba… the ability to send remittances back to Cuba. We would not do that now because the fact is it’s highly likely that the regime would confiscate those remittances,” he said, fully knowing that he was stating a proven falsehood.

FACT: Under the Obama administration, limits on remittances were more or less ended, and grew to about $4 billion a year. The Cuban government taxed remittances sent via Western Union at 15 percent and the recipient got the rest. Of course, there was no way of knowing if it came as cash-in-person with Cuban-American visitors and mulas (hired couriers), which went untaxed. (BTW: If my family in England were to send ME a remittance here in the USA, I’d have to declare it to the IRS and pay a tax more or less equivalent.)

WHY BIDEN SAID IT: Biden lost the Florida vote in November 2020 by a wide margin, mostly due to the swing Cuban-American voters buying into Trump’s designating Biden and the Democrats as “socialist.” The term sends shivers up the spines of Cuban exiles. Biden is eyeing the 2022 mid-terms, with Democratic Rep. Val Demings running against Marco Rubio for his Senate seat. Biden feels he can’t afford to appear soft on the one-party communist government of Cuba and is telling the hard-line Cuban-American community what they want to hear.

Even though remittances go direct into the pockets of Cuban families on the island, the hard-line Cuban-Americans (who we assume, do NOT send remittances) hate that the Cuban government gets a share of that money through taxation and whenever Cubans buy fuel for their cars or buy a fridge, TV, or any other item in state-run stores. Notwithstanding that the share of the Cuban government budget spent on the military has dwindled year by year and now stands at only 2.9 percent, according to the World Bank (compared to 12.8 percent for education and 11.2 percent for health), the Cuban-American hard-liners always conflate the issue to suggest that all the money the Cuban state receives goes to fund a “repressive regime” (i.e. miliitary and security apparatus). It’s been a constant, ongoing, pattern of purposeful misrepresentation.

BIDEN: Biden then said “They have a Covid problem in Cuba. I’d be prepared to give significant amounts of vaccine, if in fact I was assured an international organization would administer those vaccines and do it in a way that average citizens would have access to the vaccines.”


FACT: Cuba has developed two highly ranked vaccines (Soberana and Abdala, each rivaling Pfizer and Moderna in efficacy) and is rapidly vaccinating the entire population. Having begun about two months ago, as of today it had fully vaccinated 16.7% of the populace.

WHY BIDEN SAID IT: Again, Biden surely intended this for the ears of hard-line Cuban-American voters with an eye to the mid-term elections in 2022. Nothing more. Nothing less. Congress’ Cuban-American congressional representatives, led by former Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen had a scorched-earth policy with regard to Cuba trade and assistance, going so far as to try to ban Cuban-developed treatments for which the USA has no equivalents.

There are enough negatives about the Cuban one-party state-run system that speak for themselves without having to resort to this depth of lying. That it comes from a Democratic president and not the former Republican liar-in-chief is even more dismaying.

Meanwhile, see my blog response to the Cuban street protests… view my SiriusXM interview (July 16, 2021) with CNN’s Michael Smerconish regarding the protests… and read Hugo Cancio’s sage commentary in OnCuba


Christopher P Baker


Christopher P. Baker, one of the world's most multi-talented and successful travel writers and photographers has been named by National Geographic as one of the world's foremost authorities on Cuba travel and culture. Winner of the Lowell Thomas Award 2008 as 'Travel Journalist of the Year,' he has authored more than 30 books, leads tours for National Geographic Expeditions, Edelwiss Bike Travel, and Jim Cline Photo Tours, among other companies, and is a Getty Images and National Geographic contributing photographer.