Trump's new U.S.-Cuba policy rejects 'oppressors'

Cuban entrepreneurs wait for U.S. to issue new regulations within 30 days

MIAMI – At the San Cristobal Paladar in Havana, Cubans were watching President Donald Trump declare Friday that he was restoring some travel and economic restrictions on Cuba.

Carlos Cristóbal Márquez, the restaurant's owner, watched Trump's  announcement near to where President Barack Obama dined during his historic trip in March. He remembers him as a humble man. 

"America has rejected the Cuban people’s oppressors," Trump said during a rally in Miami's Little Havana. "They are rejected officially today — Rejected."


There was loud applause and cheers at the crowded auditorium in Miami. But at the San Cristobal Paladar,  Márquez worried about the private sector. There was silence when Trump targeted the U.S.-Cuba economic engagement that has helped their business growth.


"A free Cuba is what we will soon achieve," Trump said as he challenged the communist government of Cuban President Raul Castro to negotiate a better deal.


Trump also said penalties on Cuba would remain in place until its government releases political prisoners, stops abusing dissidents and respects freedom of expression. Trump also said Cuba had secured far too many concessions from the U.S. in the "misguided" deal but "now those days are over." 

Trump aims to halt the flow of U.S. dollars to the country’s military and security services. Individual "people-to-people" trips will again be prohibited. The U.S. government will make sure groups are traveling with a tour group representative and follow a "full-time schedule of educational exchange activities."

In Cuba, Granma, the official organ of the nation’s Communist Party, covered Friday’s speech in a real-time blog, saying "Trump’s declarations are a return to imperialist rhetoric and unilateral demands, sending relations between Havana and Washington back into the freezer."

The U.S. severed ties with Cuba in 1961 after Fidel Castro’s revolution, and spent subsequent decades trying to either overthrow the Cuban government or isolate the island, including by toughening an economic embargo first imposed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The trade embargo remains in place under Trump. Only the U.S. Congress can lift it, and lawmakers, especially those of Cuban heritage, such as Sen. Marco Rubio, another Florida Republican, have shown no interest in doing so.

On the stage in Miami, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., said the U.S. would no longer have to witness the "embarrassing spectacle" of an American president being friendly with a dictator.

"President Trump will treat the Castro regime as a malevolent dictatorship that it is," Diaz-Balart said. "Thank you, President Trump, for keeping your commitments. You have not betrayed us. You kept your promise."

Rubio staunchly opposed Obama’s re-engagement with Cuba, and he lauded Trump as he took the stage.

"Today, a new president lands in Miami to reach out his hand to the people of Cuba," Rubio said.

Myron Brilliant, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce executive vice president and head of international affairs, told The Associated Press that the U.S. private sector engagement can be a positive force for the kind of change most wish to see in Cuba.

"Unfortunately, today’s moves actually limit the possibility for positive change on the island and risk ceding growth opportunities to other countries that, frankly, may not share America’s interest in a free and democratic Cuba that respects human rights," Brilliant said. 

Embassies in Havana and Washington will remain open. U.S. airlines and cruise ships will still be allowed to serve the island 90 miles south of Florida. The "wet foot, dry foot" policy, which once let most Cuban migrants stay if they made it to U.S. soil but was terminated under Obama, will remain terminated. Remittances to Cuba won’t be cut off.

More about the policy:

  • Deals with the Cuban military's Grupo de Administración Empresarial, or GAESA, are prohibited.

  • Non-academic educational travel will be limited to group travel. Self-directed, individual travel will be prohibited.

  • The policy memorandum directs the Treasury and Commerce departments to begin the process of issuing new regulations within 30 days. The policy changes will not take effect until those departments have finalized their new regulations, a process that may take several months.

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