On June 16, 2017 in a speech in Miami, FL, President Trump, keeping true to his campaign promise, announced a change in the U.S. Government’s policy towards Cuba. The change rolls back many allowances that the Obama administration had agreed to, going for a more hardline approach this time.
“Effective immediately, I am canceling the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba”, Trump exclaimed to the delight of the gathered crowd.
Trump feels this is necessary to limit funding to the Castro regime, forcing them into elections and transference of power to democratic forces. But he has faced stiff opposition from the Democrats as well as the media.
The Cuban regime on its part also did not hold back. After all, they stand to lose a big chunk of the income that they derive through trade and tourism. One politician remarked that Trump’s views “contradict the majority support of American public opinion” and that he was falling into “coercive methods of the past.”
Is the policy unfair? Or is the liberal rhetoric against the President coloring people’s opinion?
Contrary to what Castro’s regime says, Cubans in America seem to support the policy. One Frank Calzon, a director of the Center for a Free Cuba went as far as to say, “Today the dismantling of Obama’s outrageous orders has begun.”
The policy change on paper is unlikely to differ significantly from what it was in Obama’s time. What people forget is that even then, majority of the elements of the US embargo from before had stayed in effect. What Obama had done was to promote an exchange of people by allowing free travel, which gave the impression that things were moving in the right direction.
People argue that it is the common Cuban who will suffer the consequences of the policy change. They say that curtailing logistic activities or tourism, both of which are key players in the Cuban economy, takes money out of the pocket of regular, hard-working Cuban families.
What they fail to understand is that both of these industries have strong connections to the ruling Cuban families. Yes, the private sector might suffer, but it’s a small price to pay for freedom.
It is also worth noting that the traveling restrictions on US citizens to Cuba are not as bad as you are led to believe. It will have an impact on the Cuban economy, surely, but Americans only made up around 7% of the total travelers that entered Cuba in 2016.
Another aspect of the new policy is that it restricts the US private sector from dealing with GAESA (Grupo de Administración Empresarial SA) or the Castro Group. GAESA monopolizes almost all major industries in Cuba, so by imposing restrictions on trading with them, Trump hopes to cut off some of their funding.
And even that’s not bad as people are making it out to be. For companies already engaged in trade or business agreements with GAESA, the policy allows exemption from the rule. Trump’s objective is quite simple. He wants to take power away from Castro and give it to the people.
“We will enforce the embargo. We will take concrete steps to ensure that investments flow directly to the people so they can open private businesses and begin to build their country’s great, great future, a country of great potential.”
The fact is that Trump’s words are sometimes harsher than his actions. His speech, although full of passion, did not contain many specifics. In reality, the new Cuba policy keeps most aspects of the last one intact.
Only time will tell how the speech and policy statements by Trump translate to paper. There is a chance that the US could impose stricter sanctions than we’re led to believe. But the opposite is more likely. There is always room to negotiate too, and as long as Cuban officials and the Trump administration keep talking, things could change.
Whether you take a positive view of things or not depends on how you view the President. Sometimes a tough stance is necessary, especially when you are dealing with someone as powerful as the Castro regime.