Four months after he was sworn in, President Donald Trump has yet to undo former President Barack Obama’s Cuba policies. After much anticipation that an announcement on changes will be made this week, Trump has reportedly still not chosen a course of action, White House officials said.
The White House had wanted to unveil his plan on May 20 to commemorate the 115th anniversary of Cuba’s independence, but the president is beginning his international trip on Friday and the review of the policy changes the Obama administration made has still not been concluded, The Miami Herald reports.
“The issue of Cuba is extremely complex, and the president does not want to rush it,” a White House spokeswoman told The Herald. “Besides, he won’t be here on May 20.”
Trump condemned Obama’s policy during the last months of the campaign, saying it gave too much without requiring human rights guarantees from the Castro regime. After he was sworn in, he tasked his administration to work with several federal agencies and the National Security Council to perform a full review of the Cuba policy.
There were rumors that an announcement would be made this week, even though the Cuban government seems complacent about Trump’s statements about the policy changes initiated by Obama two years ago. A source close to the Cuban government told The Herald that Havana is confident nothing will change because the communist government would quickly adjust its policy with the U.S., and because the island nation is about to experience a significant change with the retirement of Cuban President Raúl Castro next year.
However, Francisco Palmieri, acting Assistant Secretary in the Bureau for the Western Hemisphere Affairs, said in a press conference in Washington, D.C. last week that the revisions the Trump administration has made would have “important differences” with the one Obama implemented.
“I suspect that there will be important differences that will emerge between how this administration plans to address the situation in Cuba,” Palmieri said. “One of the areas that will be a high priority is to ensure that Cuba makes further substantive progress toward greater respect for human rights in the country.”
Obama used presidential orders to reestablish diplomatic relations, reopen the embassies in Washington and Havana, loosen the ability of U.S. citizens to visit the island, and ease financial and trade barriers—all are things Trump could reverse without approval from Congress.
But when the president decides to announce his changes, anti-Cuba hardliners may be disappointed. Experts don’t believe Trump will make the type of wholesale changes that he suggested during the campaign last year. Some U.S. companies have already invested millions into new business ventures with the island, and it would be difficult to revoke those deals and go back to pre-Obama policies.
Still, Trump had been adamant about making changes to Obama’s policies, so he must do something to satisfy the members of Congress and Cuban-American voters who supported him in Florida. Even if the final changes recommended by government agencies end up being conservative, Trump will have to present them in a way that will satisfy pressure from Cuban-Americans in Congress like Marco Rubio and Mario Diaz-Balart.