Cuba rejects new US policy, calls it 'archaic'

Lawrence Kim
June 19, 2017

American travellers who long to swill a cocktail at Havana's legendary Sloppy Joe's bar or dive into the rooftop pool of its newest luxury hotel had their dreams dashed when U.S. President Donald Trump announced his new Cuba policy this week.

In his perverse fixation on overturning all things Barack Obama, President Donald Trump now turns his attention to Cuba, the island located 90 miles off our shore.

Cuban-Americans on Flagler Street near downtown Miami on June 16, 2017.

"We will not be silent in the face of communist oppression any longer", Trump said during his speech in Little Havana, Miami.

"The Cuban administration is a violator of human rights as much as some of the people who President Trump has praised and admired on his recent trip, such as the King of Saudi Arabia and the president of Egypt", said Peter Schechter, a Latin America specialist who most recently headed the Atlantic Council's Latin American center.

The move is created to target the repressive elements of the Cuban regime over human rights concerns and not the Cuban people, said officials, who briefed reporters ahead of the announcement on the condition they not be named. "Effective immediately, I am canceling the last administration's completely one-sided deal with Cuba". He is a former member of the board of TransAfrica, and now on the board of the U.S. -Cuba Cultural Exchange.

The lengthy statement went on to strike a conciliatory tone, saying Cuba wants to continue negotiations with the U.S. on a variety of subjects.

"Because we know it is best for America to have freedom in our hemisphere, whether in Cuba or Venezuela, and to have a future where the people of each country can live out their own dreams", he said.

He says he's been arrested 50 times in Cuba for protesting the regime, and that he was arrested on the very day that Obama paid the historic visit to Havana in March of previous year.

Airports and seaports are exempted from the ban, meaning cruise ship companies and airlines can continue to operate their routes to Cuba. "Much of Obama's policy remains the same", said Sebastian Arcos, associate director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University.

Americans can still travel to the island under "educational" pretenses, under the new regulations, but they'll be held to strict rules and must record activity logs and schedules to ensure that they aren't traveling for the sake of tourism.

The changes won't go into effect until new documents laying out details are issued.

Although the policy changes announced were limited, Trump tightened rules for Americans traveling to Cuba, banned ties with a military-run tourism firm and reaffirmed the existing United States trade embargo. The policy bans most financial transactions with a yet-unreleased list of entities associated with Cuba's military and state security, including a conglomerate that dominates much of Cuba's economy, such as many hotels, state-run restaurants and tour buses.

White House officials acknowledged this week that Trump had insisted on scaling back Obama's Cuba policy in order to fulfill his campaign promises. One would think that Trump, who trumpets his business background, would understand that open relations with Cuba - trade, travel, human and cultural exchange - will have far more impact in generating pressure for change than a reversion to the failed embargo.

The Obama administration had restored diplomatic relations with its Cold War foe in December 2014.

Yet it also exposed the shortcomings in Obama's approach. First, Trump has called for tighter enforcement of rules on what's become de facto American tourism in Cuba.

However, President Trump is not rowing back on all parts of Obama's deal.

"There will be little impact on the United States economy", said Michael Shifter, a specialist at the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington-based research group.

Trump's speech vowed to protect Cubans and Cuban-Americans, especially those persecuted by the Castro regime.

"We want this relationship to be one in which we can encourage the Cuban people through economic interaction".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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