Raul Castro Dismisses Trump’s Tougher Line on Relations with Havana

Raul-Castro-300x200Cuban President Raul Castro dismissed President Donald Trump’s harder line on relations with Havana to Cuba’s National Assembly on Friday, calling it a setback.

“Any strategy that seeks to destroy the revolution either through coercion or pressure or through more subtle methods will fail,” said Castro.

This was the first time he has commented on Trump’s June announcement of a rollback of some of the changes established by former President Barack Obama.

Surrounded by Cuban dissidents and exiles in Miami, Trump announced on June 16 that the U.S. would impose new restrictions on American travelers to the island and ban any business dealings with the Cuban military conglomerate that controls a large chunk of the island’s tourism industry. He said the U.S. would consider lifting those and other restrictions only after the Cuban government allowed freedom of assembly, held free elections, and made a number of other internal changes. Releasing political prisoners and returning fugitives was on the list.

“The Cuban 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,” said Trump. “In Cuba, dissidents and peaceful protesters are arbitrarily detained and held in terrible prison conditions. Violence and intimidation against dissidents occurs with impunity.”

Castro denounced “lessons” on human rights from the U.S., saying Cuba “has a lot to be proud about” on the matter. In an official statement issued a week after Trump’s announcement, the Cuban government cited several reasons why the U.S. could not justifiably criticize the island’s human rights record, including the marginalization of migrants and refugees, police brutality and abuses, racial discrimination, income inequality, the withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change, and the GOP’s goal to repeal Obamacare and leave 23 million Americans without medical coverage.

Trump plans to keep many important elements of Obama’s policy, such as the reopening of embassies in Havana and Washington, the elimination of the so-called “wet foot, dry foot” immigration policy, and the reestablishment of a diplomatic relations with the island.

Trump will also continue to suspend certain provisions of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act. The State Department told Congress on Friday that it will keep suspending for six months provisions that deal with property seized from Americans by the Cuban government. If Title III goes into effect, it will create the potential for as many as 200,000 lawsuits by U.S. citizens whose property was confiscated after the Cuban revolution.

The ability to suspend provisions in Title III was added into the Helms-Burton Act by the Clinton administration in 1996. U.S. allies like Mexico, Western Europe, and Canada opposed Title III because it would make their companies in Cuba potential targets for lawsuits. To work around the problem, President Bill Clinton added a presidential waiver provision when Congress was debating the law that gives the president authority to suspend for six months the right to file Title III lawsuits, and the president can renew the suspension indefinitely.

Speaking to the National Assembly, Castro reiterated his country’s desire to continue working to normalize relations with Washington.

Source: 7.15.17 Raul Castro Dismisses Trump’s Tougher Line on Relations with Havana.pdf