Trump 'canceling' Obama's Cuba policy but leaves much in place
Adam Fisher, Good Morning America
After nearly three years of warming relations between the United States and Cuba, President Donald Trump has announced that his administration will unravel many of his predecessor’s policies on the communist state.
Speaking in Miami, Florida, Trump announced changes to President Barack Obama’s historic rapprochement with Cuba -- fulfilling a promise to the anti-Castro voting bloc he believes helped his campaign clinch the state, but stirring fear among others he could set back business interests and Cuba’s potential for a more prosperous private sector.
The Cuban government said in a statement published in the state-run newspaper Granma, "Again, the United States Government resorted to coercive methods of the past, adopting measures to intensify the blockade, in force since February 1962, which not only causes damage and deprivation to the Cuban people and constitutes an undeniable obstacle to the development of our economy, but also affects the sovereignty and interests of other countries, inciting international rejection."
The statement continues, "The Cuban Government denounces the new measures to tighten the blockade, which are destined to fail as has been shown repeatedly in the past, and which will not achieve its purpose to weaken the revolution or to defeat the Cuban people, whose resistance to the aggressions of any type and origin has been proven over almost six decades."
Decades of contention before Obama
In one form or another, the embargo on Cuba has been in place since the Eisenhower administration. But beginning in late 2014, Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro began a process that gradually thawed diplomatic tensions and eased commercial and travel restrictions between the two countries.
This process culminated in significant economic opportunities for both the U.S. and Cuba. American businesses, including airlines, cruise lines, and telecommunications companies, earned 26 agreements with the Cuban government from 2015 to 2017.
Hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars flowed into privately owned businesses in Cuba, The Associated Press reported, spurring the growth of a nascent middle-class that could thrive independent from the government.
For Cuba, there have been tangible benefits in tourism and telecommunications. According to the Cuban Ministry, 74 percent more American citizens visited the island in 2016 than in 2015 and, following through on a pledge to Obama, Castro opened nearly 400 new public Wi-Fi access points around Cuba.
However, the U.S. International Trade Administration told ABC News it hasn't yet released its 2016 statistics on outbound travel and therefore could not confirm those numbers from the Cuban Ministry on U.S. tourism.
While Obama did not end the embargo on Cuba, since only Congress has that power, the U.S. and Cuba reopened embassies in each other’s capitals for the first time since 1961. The U.S. and Cuba have also signed multiple bilateral agreements to work together on everything from human and drug trafficking to maritime security and migration.
Finally, Obama ended the "wet foot, dry foot" immigration policy that applied only to Cubans. Previously, Cubans who reached U.S. shores earned automatic visas. Now, Cubans have to follow the same process as other refugees and immigrants.
What is Trump reversing?
Trump is not reversing all of Obama’s changes, but he is redefining what it means to be part of the Cuban military, which could prevent U.S. companies from doing business in Cuba. The White House explained in a fact sheet released earlier today that the policy aims to keep the Grupo de Administración Empresarial (GAESA), a conglomerate managed by the Cuban military, from benefiting from the opening in U.S.-Cuba relations.
“The profits from investment and tourism flow directly to the military. The regime takes the money and owns the industry,” Trump said. “The outcome of last administration's executive action has been only more repression and a move to crush the peaceful democratic movement. Therefore, effective immediately, I am canceling the last administration's completely one-sided deal with Cuba.”
This comes amid concerns that the Cuban military could be the beneficiary of increased American private investment, at a time when Castro has failed to take action on human rights. In 2016, there were 9,940 short-term detentions of protesters, up from 8,899 in 2014, the AP reports.
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