UPDATE: Trump announces reversal of some Obama Cuba policy reforms

UPDATE — 6/16, 2:16 p.m. EDT: Donald Trump announced the reversal of some Obama administration policy reforms regarding travel and trade between the U.S. and Cuba in a speech from Miami on Friday, as the president has signed a directive which will authorize federal agencies to make regulatory changes over the summer.

“(The Obama White House) made a deal with a government that spread violence and instability in the region”, Trump said. “We now hold the cards. The previous administration’s easing of restrictions of travel and trade does not help the Cuban people. They only enrich the Cuban regime.”

While Trump’s Cuban doctrine reverts back to some Cold War policies, it leaves diplomatic relations open, including new embassies in Havana and Washington, as well as trade ban exempted items like rum and tobacco.  

 

Following a White House review of U.S. policy in Cuba, the Trump administration is expected to shift from former President Barack Obama’s landmark policy change toward the island-nation of Cuba within the next month or so.

“I have no doubt that you’re going to see in short order a different policy,” Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) told The National Journal.

Expressing optimism ahead of the official change in policy, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) tweeted in March his hope President Trump will regard Cuba with hostility as a totalitarian state.

A complete reversal of policy is unlikely; however, the expected change is likely to entail the tightening of travel privileges and restricting business transactions with firms linked to the Cuban military, at the behest of the White House National Security Council.

In late 2014, following the Democrats disastrous mid-term election showing, then-President Barack Obama announced his administration’s intent to reform U.S. Cuba policy.  The U.S. began bi-lateral talks shortly after and normalized relations on July 20, 2015.  Mr. Obama later visited the island in March 2016.

According to unnamed sources, two senators with Cuban roots, Florida Republican Marco Rubio an New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez, both of whom opposed Obama’s policy change, engineered the expected change in position.

As a presidential candidate, Mr. Trump assailed Mr. Obama’s rapprochement with Havana as a “one-sided deal,” and vowed to change policy unless Havana freed political prisoners and granted Cuban citizens political and religious freedom.

Although the move is supported by some members of Congress of Hispanic descent, not all lawmakers are embracing the anticipated move by the White House.

“Recognizing the inherent right of Americans to travel to Cuba isn’t a concession to dictators, it is an expression of freedom.  It is Americans who are penalized by our travel ban, not the Cuban government,” said Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).  

On Thursday, 54 senators reintroduced a bill to end all U.S. travel restrictions to Cuba, showing at least some level of support for a continuation of the Obama policy reforms.

A White House announcement on the expected changes may come as early as June.

 

[Daily Caller] [Reuters] [CNN] [Photo courtesy AP/Washington Times]