Cuban government says Donald Trump will not weaken 'the revolution'

Lance Nichols
June 18, 2017

US President Donald Trump says tightening restrictions on American business and tourism in Cuba will help the island's people and small private businesses, but analysts warn it will do the opposite.

He clamped down on some commerce and travel, but left intact many new avenues former United States president Barack Obama had opened.

Many government officials and their supporters saw the Obama policy as an attempt to lull Cuba into complacency and undermine the foundations of a communist system based in part of near-total control of virtually every aspect of society, from animal-rights groups to the film industry.

Still, Cuba said it is willing to continue "respectful dialogue" with the United States on topics of mutual interest. Delta, JetBlue and American will adhere to new changes and will continue to fly their regular flights to Cuba, they said in statements. However, in a shift from Obama's approach, Trump said trade and other penalties would stay in place until a long list of prerequisites was met. "Officially, today, they are rejected". They could make traveling to Cuba more hard for passengers, who would be subject to audit by the Treasury Department to ensure their trips to Cuba fall into one of the 12 acceptable purposes.

Trump cast that as a sign the U.S. still wanted to engage with Cuba in hopes of forging "a much stronger and better path".

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

Cuba regretted "a reversal in relations between the two countries", the statement said.

While Obama did not end the embargo on Cuba, since only Congress has that power, the US and Cuba reopened embassies in each other's capitals for the first time since 1961.

Trump was clear in speaking of "cancellation" of the Obama policy on the island and made any negotiation of "a better agreement" to the process of democratic openness that Cuba lives.

The Obama policy is likely to be revised rather than reversed entirely.

"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. However, individual travel to Cuba will be stopped by the new rules.

Run by Luis Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas, son-in-law of Castro, GAESA is involved in joint ventures with several foreign firms that have driven a tourism boom on the island, including the Marriott hotel chain.

While it is fair to say the move marked a major campaign promise kept to the Cuban-American population in the nation's largest battleground state, it also fair to say it doesn't rollback everything the previous administration did. "We won't lift sanctions on the Cuban regime until all political prisoners and freed. until free and internationally recognised elections are held", Trump added.

It analyzes the virtues of Obama's approach, which had recognized Cuba's independence, sovereignty and self-determination, and the Cuban government in a civilized coexistence relationship.

Trump said his measures aimed to punish the Castro regime, which Washington accuses of mistreating political dissidents.

But Trump's changes, he said, would harm Cuba's growing private sector.

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

The main changes are a ban on U.S. companies. "On the other hand, we think we've achieved very little in terms of changing the behavior of the regime in Cuba and its treatment of people", he said, "and it has little incentive to change that". "All the (U.S. economic) embargo has brought upon Cuba is misery".

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

Some of those new groups came under intense pressure during detente, particularly after Obama's May 2016 visit to the island.

Other reports by TheDigitalNewspaper

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