Officials: Trump may roll back Obama opening with Cuba
By Patrick Oppmann and Elise Labott, CNN
Updated 0903 GMT (1703 HKT) May 31, 2017
Officials: Trump may reverse Obama-era policies softening relations with
Gesture would fulfill campaign promises to Cuban-American voters and
anti-Castro Congress members
Havana, Cuba (CNN)President Donald Trump is expected to roll back
portions of the Obama opening with Cuba as early as June, according to a
US government official involved in the review of current US policy
toward the communist-run island.
The official and other current and former administration officials and
Cuba experts expect that as early as June, Trump could announce that the
United States would no longer make unilateral concessions to Cuba — as
critics accused the Obama administration of doing.
They also expect that Trump will demand US fugitives of justice, such as
Assata Shakur, who received political asylum on the island after being
convicted of killing a New Jersey state trooper and escaping from US
prison, be extradited. And they believe the President will bar American
companies from making deals with the Cuban military, which controls much
of the state-run tourism industry.
Trump is not expected to reverse all of the Obama changes — seen as the
most significant relaxation of tensions between the United States and
Cuba since Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution.
But, current and former US officials say, Trump is looking to make a
symbolic gesture that will fulfill his campaign promises to conservative
Cuban-American voters and anti-Castro members of Congress without
closing the door on Cuba’s emerging market for US businesses.
“I’m 1,000 percent sure the president is going to deliver on his
commitment,” Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Florida), who has lobbied the
White House to reverse the Obama policy, told the National Journal in
May. “I have no doubt that you’re going to see in short order a
Cuban officials have refrained from direct comment.
The expected new policy comes as Raul Castro appears to be finalizing
his term as president. Castro has said he will step down in February 2018.
Although Castro is expected to hand pick his successor, the changing of
the guard on the island would give the opportunity for the Trump
administration to soon deal with a less polarizing figure if relations
don’t significantly worsen.
Before running for president, Trump had explored the possibility of
opening hotels in Cuba. But on the campaign trail he took a much tougher
line, threatening to cut diplomatic ties unless the government made
concessions on human rights and religious freedoms.
US officials said the administration was still looking at placing
tighter controls on Americans visiting the island and possibly
reenacting a ban on US travelers bringing back Cuban cigars and rum,
which was lifted by Obama.
While the US prohibits tourism to Cuba, the US Treasury Department
currently allows travelers to “self-license” under 12 different
categories of travel, such as educational tours and participating in
sporting events. But the sources said Trump could end that practice,
which has created a loophole that allows almost anyone to travel to the
Tightening up on those categories would likely impact earnings for the
US airlines and cruise ship companies that began service to Cuba in 2016
and go against a rising anti-travel sanctions sentiment.
In May, 55 US senators said they supported a bill to scrap the travel
Trump also could overturn former President Barack Obama’s Presidential
Policy Directive, which laid out general parameters for the US of a
policy of engagement with Cuba. But sources said such a move would be
largely cosmetic and would not have much impact.
Earlier this month, acting Assistant Secretary Francisco Palmieri, the
State Department’s top diplomat for the Western Hemisphere, told
reporters a focus of Trump’s revamped policy “will be a high priority”
to ensure that “Cuba makes further substantive progress toward greater
respect for human rights in the country.”
For months, Cuban officials adopted a wait-and-see attitude to Trump,
with Raul Castro congratulating Trump on his electoral victory and
saying he hoped to work with the new US president to continue to improve
But on May 20, considered by many Cubans in exile to be the island’s
independence day, Trump issued a statement saying, “The Cuban people
deserve a government that peacefully upholds democratic values, economic
liberties, religious freedoms, and human rights, and my Administration
is committed to achieving that vision.”
Later that day, a Cuban state broadcaster read a statement saying
Trump’s views on Cuba were “poorly advised” and “clumsy.”
Patrick Oppmann reported from Havana and Elise Labott reported from
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