Cuba crisis top of Joe Biden's in-tray as unrest spreads across Caribbean and Latin America

·3-min read

Joe Biden set his sights and lofty foreign policy goals far afield when he entered office. All eyes were on a new deal with Iran, tackling China, continuing the pivot to the Pacific.

But in geopolitics men make plans and God laughs. The president's attention is being drawn back closer to home, as America's backyard, the Caribbean and Latin America erupt in crises.

"Suddenly with all these events taking place, the Caribbean is going to become hugely important and Biden's not going to be able to concentrate on these other parts of the world," Professor Mervyn Bain from Aberdeen University told Sky News.

A presidential assassination in Haiti, rare and furious protests across Cuba, simmering unrest in Venezuela and Nicaragua.

The region is tipping into turmoil and that could cause big problems for its richer northern neighbour.

Most pressing is the situation in Cuba.

"It's hugely significant and what makes it more significant is that previous protests were really just in Havana whereas these appear to be across the island," Prof Bain added.

Protestors have lost their fear of government, taking to the streets denouncing it.

Under sanctions tightened by Donald Trump, the Cuban economy is trouble and tourism has crashed because of COVID. And the virus is spreading after a long period where authorities had been successful in containing it.

Cubans have their own vaccine but a poor economy and mismanagement mean there is a chronic shortage of syringes.

There has been unrest before but this one is fuelled by the latest technology.

"What's different now is social media, in that Cubans have access to 3G and people have much more access to information. So it's going to be much more difficult compared to previous times for the government to control information because people are going to be communicating much more easily," Prof Bain said.

Crises are multiplying across the region. There's the danger of unrest spreading from Cuba to Venezuela. Haiti has huge problems of its own. In Nicaragua many are fleeing a government crackdown on dissent and democracy.

All make for difficult reading in the US president's morning digest

"It's a huge challenge given that he probably didn't imagine that the Caribbean would be so far up his foreign policy agenda list so quickly," said Prof Bain.

Cuba has long been a thorn in the side of the US but it has also been a rock of stability - the communist devil Washington knew and felt familiar with.

"What the Cuban government has been able to do is to provide stability in that part of the Caribbean and if there's instability that causes huge problems for the United States in a number of ways," Prof Bain added.

Most urgently it could increase the number of migrants trying to reach America and cross its borders.

Previous Cuban crises have seen the same. And if instability spreads from Cuba, more will come from other countries adding to the tide of humanity already pressing up against the southern US border.

But of equal importance is the impression of a strong administration able to control its backyard. If the Caribbean erupts into unrest and that spreads - the prestige of the US and its new president will suffer accordingly.

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