Not much new in Trump's Cuba policy

Henrietta Strickland
June 19, 2017

President Donald Trump's announcement that he's "cancelling" his predecessor's policy toward Cuba is a good deal less than meets the ear.

Trump's speech, which came as the president signed a directive outlining his posture toward Cuba, is the latest attempt by the Trump administration to chip away at Obama's legacy, of which the Cuba policy of starting a historic detente was a major part.

A pro President Donald Trump supporter chants slogans, Friday, June 1, 2017, in Miami.

The new policy aims to starve military-linked businesses of cash by banning any US payments to them.

President Donald Trump speaks about Cuba policy, Friday, June 16, 2017, in Miami.

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci). President Donald Trump speaks about Cuba policy, Friday, June 16, 2017, in Miami.

According to the Cuban Democracy Movement leader Ramon Sanchez, what Trump did on Friday, to effectively stop USA tourism to the island and to try and stop Dollars entering the hands of Raul Castro's government, "is just the beginning". Yet island officials say they remain willing to continue "respectful dialogue" on topics of mutual interest.

Diplomatic relations restored just two years ago will remain intact and the countries will maintain embassies.

Trump said his actions bypassed the military and the government to help the Cuban people form businesses and pursue much better lives. "Officially, today, they are rejected".

The celebration was paramount at "Versailles", the famous Cuban restaurant which is a meeting point for thousands of Cubans who are living in the U.S. and is located in the neighborhood which Cuban emigres have taken as their own, "Little Havana". Trump isn't overturning Obama's decision to end the "wet foot, dry foot" policy that allowed most Cuban migrants who made it onto U.S. soil to stay and eventually become legal permanent residents.

"Our policy will seek a much better deal for the Cuban people and for the United States of America".

But individual "people-to-people" trips by Americans to Cuba, allowed by Obama for the first time in decades, will again be prohibited.

Under the expected changes, the USA will ban American financial transactions with the dozens of enterprises run by the military-linked corporation GAESA, which operates dozens of hotels, tour buses, restaurants and other facilities.

"You went out and you voted, and here I am, like I promised".

Trump also demanded the return of US fugitives including Joanne Chesimard, a black militant convicted in 1977 of the murder of a New Jersey state trooper.

The rules also require a daylong schedule of activities created to expose the travelers to ordinary Cubans.

Obama had pushed for expanding commerce and travel between the two countries.

Ben Rhodes, the former deputy national security adviser who negotiated Obama's opening with the Cubans, said it was disappointing Trump was halting the momentum that had built but added that it could have been worse. "Our new policy begins with strictly enforcing USA law", he said yesterday. Cuban-Americans can still send money to relatives and travel to the island without restriction.

"When he's cutting back on travel, he's hurting us, the Cuban entrepreneurs", said Camilo Diaz, a 44-year-old waiter in a restaurant in Havana.

Granma, the official organ of Cuba's Communist Party, described Trump's declarations in real-time blog coverage Friday as "a return to imperialist rhetoric and unilateral demands".

During his speech, Trump slammed Cuba for human rights abuses, saying, "The Castro regime has shipped arms to North Korea and fueled chaos in Venezuela".

The Castro government is certain to reject Trump's list of demands, which includes releasing political prisoners, halting what the US says is abuse of dissidents and allowing greater freedom of expression.

Online lodging booker Airbnb was allowed into Cuba, and commercial flights between the US and Cuba resumed after more than half a century.

Cuba functioned as a virtual US colony for much of the 20th century, and even reform-minded Cubans are highly sensitive to perceived USA infringements on national sovereignty.

"The harboring of criminals and fugitives will end", Trump said.

US travelers are engaging in what amounts to illegal tourism, but they are also pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into the restaurants and bed-and-breakfasts that are driving the growth of Cuba's nascent private sector.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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