Will Farmers Feel a Chill When Trump Cools the US-Cuba Thaw?

Posted June 16, 2017

President Barack Obama's decision to partially unwind the Cuba sanctions program was driven by an understandable desire to relax that program. On the table: cutbacks on U.S.travel to Cuba and a ban on doing business with the military-linked conglomerate that controls much of the Cuban economy.

Asked how Trump's past business interest in Cuba could affect his thinking on USA policy, the White House referred comment to the Trump company.

Trump will tighten travel restrictions and ban USA spending with any state-run businesses tied to the military.

According to Cuba's National Office of Statistics and Information, in the month of May, almost 285,000 US citizens visited Cuba under the 12 protected permit categories established by the Obama administration, roughly equaling the total number of visitors in the entire year 2016.

"If Trump is interested in making it harder for Americans to come to Cuba through special permits or new categories, I think it's going to fail".

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US tech giant Google installed servers in Cuba; worldwide hotel operators rushed to open five-star hotels in Havana and Cuba's resorts; airlines eagerly launched regular commercial flights to different cities in the country; and cruise lines put Havana and Cuban resorts on their itineraries.

Polls suggest most Americans support the liberalized policy towards Cuba pushed by the Obama administration.

The resumption of direct U.S. -Cuba flights will also continue, although the newly restrictive policy will likely staunch the flow of tourists to the country.

Both Trump and his running mate, Mike Pence, were vocal during the 2016 campaign about plans to "reverse" the Obama administration's policies toward Cuba, which Trump referred to as a bad deal. The Department of Treasury will create the new regulations and none of the changes will take effect until the regulations are completed.

Gary Prevost, a professor emeritus at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University, talked about what that would mean for Cuba and for the U.S.

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Egberto Morales, a visiting Cuban, said it is an error to interpret Obama's changes as a way to disrupt this dictatorship.

Obama announced in December 2014 that he and Cuban leader Raul Castro were restoring diplomatic ties between their countries, arguing that the policy the USA had pursued for decades had failed to bring about change and that it was time to try a new approach. By normalizing relations and facilitating trade and travel between Americans and Cubans, he asserted, the United States would spread democratic ideals on the island, while American diplomats could nudge the government toward greater openness in a post-Castro era. It spent subsequent decades trying to either overthrow the Cuban government or isolate the island, including toughening an economic embargo first imposed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. That seems odd given that the Trump administration is not particularly fond of pursuing that agenda in its foreign policy: there was no mention of human rights and political freedom during his visit to Saudi Arabia, for example.

The main supporters of an extensive reversal have been Cuban Americans in Congress, led by Sen. The senator, who challenged Trump for the Republican presidential nomination, was expected to travel with the president aboard Air Force One and appear with him at Friday's announcement.

"The policy isn't going to do anything new", a source from the office of one Cuban American lawmaker complained. Cuba's authoritarian one-party system remains largely unchanged, and dissidents say government repression has increased over the past two years. And U.S. companies will still be allowed to support telecommunications and Internet service on the island.

The government in Havana has made no public statements about the possible changes, although a high-ranking Cuban official told CNN this week that Raúl Castro is willing to negotiate a new deal with Trump. The theater is named for an exile leader of the Bay of Pigs veterans' association that endorsed Trump last October.

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