Race to Influence Trump on U.S.-Cuba Policy Heats Up

Cuban-Flags-Over-Balcony-300x212With President Donald Trump expected to announce his administration’s revised Cuba Policy in Miami this Friday, those for and against engagement with the island nation are scrambling to let the president—and even his daughter Ivanka—know their position.

The president has received several letters from dissidents, professors concerned that a revised policy could affect educational exchanges, U.S. senators, and various lobby groups and human rights organizations. Some were addressed to Ivanka Trump, including one from a group of over 50 Cuban female entrepreneurs urging her, businesswomen to businesswoman, to make sure the opening created by the previous administration isn’t closed.

It is unclear what new measures the Trump administration may adopt, but many expect him to place limitations on trade and travel, denounce the Cuban government for its human rights abuses, and impose sanctions on officials who are oppressing dissidents on the island. The fact that he chose Miami, which has long been a haven for anti-Castro Cuban exiles, to make his announcement hints that the new policy will please the hardliners who helped him win the Presidential vote in Florida.

Trump’s changes have been endorsed by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Miami Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, the only GOP members of Congress from Florida to back him during the presidential campaign. Rubio is reportedly working closely with the White House on the new changes.

“I am absolutely confident that the president is going to deliver on his word, on his commitments,” Rep. Diaz-Balart told The Miami Herald. “He was very clear that he thought that President Obama in essence got nothing in exchange for the concession he gave to the Castro regime.”

Florida Governor Rick Scott also commented on the Cuba problem during a recent visit to Miami, saying he was looking forward to seeing Trump’s policy.

“What President Obama did didn’t work. They haven’t opened up democracy; they don’t have more freedom,” Scott said. “I’m looking forward to seeing the president’s policy. It’s going to open a new chapter.”

But some human rights experts don’t share Scott’s sentiments.

“The fact that Obama’s approach hasn’t led to political reform in Cuba after just a few years isn’t reason to return to a policy that proved a costly failure over many decades,” Daniel Wilkinson, managing director for the Americas at Human Rights Watch, told The Miami Herald. “The previous administration was right to reject a policy that hurt ordinary Cubans and did nothing to advance human rights.”

A group of over 100 professors and educators from institutions across the U.S. signed a letter urging Trump not to reverse the previous administration’s policies. The letter said restricting travel was un-American and that major changes to the current policy would likely make it more difficult for Cuban president Raúl Castro to hand over the leadership to a successor next year as he promised.

55 Cuban businesswomen who own shops, boutique hotels, restaurants, bed and breakfasts, and other businesses also sent a letter to the White House, but they addressed it to Ivanka Trump. The women said they feared a change in U.S.-Cuba relations would threaten their livelihoods.

“A setback in the relationship would bring with it the fall of many of our businesses and with this, the suffering of all those families that depend on them,” they wrote. “There are hundreds of thousands of Cuban women working in the private sector . . . on behalf of Cuba’s female entrepreneurs, we ask for your support.”

Source: 6.13.17 Trace to Influence Trump on Cuba Policy Heats Up.pdf