Cuban officials have released an official response to President Donald Trump’s June 16 speech in Miami that reinstated restrictions on travel and banned dealings with businesses owned or controlled by the Cuban military.
The statement noted Trump’s “hostile rhetoric” and said the U.S. was in no position to lecture Cuba on human rights. However, it also confirmed Cuba’s continued willingness to collaborate with the U.S.
“The Government of Cuba reiterates its will to continue a respectful and cooperative dialogue on topics of mutual interest, as well as negotiations of outstanding issues with the US Governement,” the statement said.
Trump rolled back some of the changes the Obama administration made to U.S.-Cuba policy, but kept many important elements, such as the termination of the so-called “wet foot, dry foot” immigration policy, reopening embassies in Washington and Havana, and reestablishing diplomatic relations. He barred U.S. business dealings with companies owned by the Cuban military and made it clear that Americans traveling to Cuba will be closely watched to ensure their trips aren’t disguised as tourism.
The new directive also eliminated people-to-people trips to the island by Americans. The Obama administration allowed Americans to travel to Cuba as long as the trip fell in one of 12 categories, including people-to-people exchanges. To explain the removal of the category, White House officials said it was “ripe for abuse” by people who just want to take beach vacations to the island. President Trump used Cuba’s human rights abuses as justification for taking a harder line.
“The Cuba people have long suffered under a Communist regime that suppresses their legitimate aspirations for freedom and prosperity and fails to respect their essential human dignity,” Trump’s presidential memo said. “In Cuba, dissidents and peaceful protesters are arbitrarily detained and held in terrible prison conditions. Violence and intimidation against dissidents occurs with impunity.”
Cuba’s response cited several reasons why the U.S. could not justifiably criticize the island nation’s human rights record, including racial discrimination, police brutality and abuses, high numbers of firearm deaths, the marginalization of migrants and refugees, the desire to wall out an entire nation from entering the U.S., child labor, salary inequality, the goal to install a new healthcare system that would leave 23 million Americans without coverage, and the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change.
“The United States is in no condition to give us lessons,” the statement said. “We have serious worries about the respect for and guarantees for human rights in that country.”
It also noted that the changes Trump made only supported the views of a minority of hardline Cuban Americans, and not the wishes of the majority of the American people. A recent poll by Morning Consult found that 65 percent of Americans support maintaining the changes made by Obama in 2014.
The Cuban government denounced the new measures and made it clear that any attempt aimed at changing “the political, economic and social system n Cuba, either through pressures and impositions or by using more subtle methods, shall be doomed to failure.”
“The Government of Cuba denounces the new measures for strengthening the blockage, which are destined to fail as proven repeatedly in the past,” the statement said. “They will not achieve the purpose of debilitating the Revolution or submitting the Cuban people, whose resistance to the aggressions of any kind and origin has been proven throughout six decades.”