Thursday, February 20, 2020

Did Trump Really Shut the Door to Cuba?

By on July 1, 2017

SAN JUAN — Two weeks ago, President Donald Trump unveiled his new policy on Cuba, which for some “slammed the door” that former President Barack Obama had opened in 2015 after more than a half-century of broken diplomatic relations between the two countries.

“I’m canceling the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba,” Trump said in Miami when he signed the policy change.

During his presidential campaign, Trump had accused the Obama administration of “going soft on Castro’s regime in Cuba” and made it part of his campaign promises to reverse Obama’s policy on Cuba.

In this Aug. 31, 2016 file photo, two passengers deplane from JetBlue flight 387 waving a United States, and Cuban national flag, in Santa Clara. (Ramón Espinosa, File/AP)

“They made a deal with a government that spread violence and instability in the region and nothing they got, think about it, nothing they got, they fought for everything and we just didn’t fight hard enough, but now, those days are over…. We now hold the cards. The previous administration’s easing of restrictions on travel and trade does not help the Cuban people. They only enrich the Cuban regime,” Trump said.

Among the measures to be put in place toward Cuba is the cancelation of “people to people” educational and cultural exchanges, along with stricter auditing of U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba, as well as a ban on all economic and commercial transactions between U.S. companies and Cuban businesses with ties to Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed Forces.

Although Trump expressly said he was “completely” canceling Obama’s policies on Cuba, the change is not as complete as the president would like people to believe.

A closer look

The U.S. embassy in Havana, as well as Cuba’s in Washington, D.C., will remain open, according to Trump, “in the hope that our countries can forge a much stronger and better path.”

In addition, while limited, U.S. citizens can continue traveling to Cuba under certain specific conditions, such as family travel to visit Cuban family members, professional research and meetings, religious activities, humanitarian projects and public performances. Moreover, of the many airlines that had requested and obtained authorization to fly to Cuba, only the smaller ones have stopped their flights, whereas the bigger carriers have continued their scheduled and charter flights.

U.S. corporations can also continue to do business with the island nation, except those commercial entities with ties to the Cuban military. Therefore, other Cuban businesses and/or foreign companies doing business in Cuba can trade with U.S. companies.

Trump ordered the U.S. Treasury Department to design a new set of economic regulations that would articulate his policies, but according to reports published by the Washington Post, such regulations are far from being implemented since they have yet to be written.

Cuba responds

The Cuban government reacted to Trump’s new policy the very same day it was announced.

“The U.S. is in no position to give us any lessons. We have serious concerns regarding the guarantees and respect for human rights in that country, where there are numerous cases of murder, police brutality and abuse, particularly against the African-American population…,” reads a document circulated by the Cuban government.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez characterized Trump’s remarks as a “grotesque spectacle.”

“Without a doubt, the politics of Mr. Trump mark a step backward in bilateral relations, and this has been recognized by countless voices inside and outside the U.S., who have roundly rejected the announced changes,” Rodriguez said.

The Cuban minister was referring to reactions prompted by Trump’s change in policy from both Democrats and Republicans.

The Cuban communiqué characterizes the announced measures as “coercive methods from the past…that not only cause harm and deprivation to the Cuban people, but also to the interests and sovereignty of other countries.”

Rodríguez assured the announced changes in policy “will not accomplish their declared objectives” and recalled that such measures had not succeeded in the past “and would not work now.”

Indeed, the changes in U.S. policy toward Cuba will have an impact on its economy, as well as on many U.S. and Cuban co-ops and small entrepreneurs who are now making a living from tourism and other investments.

“Whatever changes are necessary in Cuba, such as those made in 1959 and those we are now undertaking as part of updating our social and economic model, will be sovereignly decided by the Cuban people,” states the Cuban government document, before warning that it “will assume whatever risk and will continue firm and secure in building a sovereign nation.”

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