Trump Reverses Pieces of Obama-Era Engagement with Cuba

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According to Julie Hirschfield Davis (The New York Times) President Trump announced today (June 16, 2017) that he was reversing crucial pieces of what he called a “terrible and misguided deal” with Cuba and will reinstate travel and commercial restrictions eased by the Obama administration in an attempt to obtain additional concessions from the Cuban government.

During a speech in Little Havana, the epicenter of a Cuban exile community that enthusiastically supported him in last year’s election, Mr. Trump said he was keeping a campaign promise to roll back the policy of engagement begun by President Barack Obama in 2014, which he said had empowered the communist government in Cuba and enriched the country’s repressive military.

“We will not be silent in the face of communist oppression any longer,” Mr. Trump said at the Manuel Artime Theater, named for a former supporter of Fidel Castro who became a leader of Brigade 2506, the land forces that spearheaded the United States-led Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. “Effective immediately, I am canceling the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba,” Mr. Trump said.

But Mr. Trump’s action fell well short of doing so. After the speech, he signed a six-page directive that ordered new travel and commercial restrictions while leaving in place some key Obama-era measures that eased sanctions.

As part of the new policy, Americans will no longer be able to plan their own private trips to Cuba, and those who go as part of authorized educational tours will be subject to strict new rules and audits to ensure that they are not going just as tourists. American companies and citizens will also be barred from doing business with any firm controlled by the Cuban military or its intelligence or security services, walling off crucial parts of the economy, including much of the tourist sector, from American access.

“We do not want U.S. dollars to prop up a military monopoly that exploits and abuses the citizens of Cuba,” Mr. Trump said.

[. . .] Under the directive, embassies in Washington and Havana will stay open and cruises and direct flights between the United States and Cuba will be protected under an exception from the prohibition on transactions with military-controlled entities. Nor does the measure affect the ability of Cuban-Americans to travel freely to the island and send money to relatives there, or a broad array of rules the Obama administration put in place aimed at making it easier for American companies to do business in Cuba.

But Mr. Trump’s speech was a stinging rejection of Mr. Obama’s announcement in 2014 that he and President Raúl Castro of Cuba would begin normalizing relations between the two countries. Mr. Trump’s speech evoked, instead, the Cold War thinking that dominated the United States government’s stance toward Cuba for a half-century. “To the Cuban government, I say: Put an end to the abuse of dissidents,” Mr. Trump said. “Release the political prisoners. Stop jailing innocent people. Open yourselves to political and economic freedoms. Return the fugitives from American justice.”

Just over one year ago, Mr. Obama took the stage at a theater in Havana, with Mr. Castro in attendance, to reject that thinking and declare that he intended to “bury the last vestige of the Cold War” and “leave behind the ideological battles of the past.”

On Friday, Mr. Trump sought to revive that struggle, listing the misdeeds of the Castro government over more than five decades. “We will never, ever be blind to it,” Mr. Trump said. “We remember what happened.” His audience of Cuban exiles and their families, including Mr. Rubio and Mr. Díaz-Balart, roared its approval. “President Trump will treat the Castro regime as the malevolent dictatorship that it is,” Mr. Díaz-Balart said. [. . .]

For full article, see https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/16/us/politics/cuba-trump-engagement-restrictions.html?_r=0

 

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