On June 16, 2017, President Trump gave an address in Miami calling for a reversal of the Obama-era Cuban policy that opened up diplomatic ties, travel, and business with the Caribbean country. According to CNN, the Trump administration is planning on reversing travel and business aspects of Obama’s Cuba policy but will not be cutting diplomatic ties. Embassies in Havana and Washington will remain open. Despite Trump promising, in the same speech, that the changes in our policy with Cuba would be happening immediately, it is likely to take months before any of the measures proposed are implemented. USA Today reports that the changes proposed by Trump could take months, maybe years, before they are finalized. As for his reasoning for the change in the policy, Trump cited concerns over Cuba’s record on human rights and his perceived notion that Cuba is not willing to comply with the U.S. Trump also said that he didn’t want any more U.S. dollars going to fund the Cuban military.
“To the Cuban government, I say, put an end to the abuse of dissidents, release the political prisoners, stop jailing innocent people, open yourselves to political and economic freedoms, return the fugitives from American justice, including the return of the cop killer Joanne Chesimard,” Trump said in his speech, according to The New York Times.
Cuba quickly responded to Trump’s speech. Not only did the Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez call the speech a “grotesque spectacle” during a visit in Vienna, Austria, but the Cuban government released their own statement questioning the legitimacy of the renewed restrictions. They say that enforcing the embargo will only serve to further impact Cubans and the Cuban economy, which Trump claims he wants to see grow under a democratic ruling during his speech. As for the human rights concern, well, the Cuban government had some choice words for the President of the United States about that.
“The United States are not in the position to teach us lessons. We have serious concerns about the respect for and guarantees of human rights in that country, where there are numerous cases of murders, brutality, and abuses by the police, particularly against the African-American population; the right to life is violated as a result of the deaths caused by fire arms; child labor is exploited and there are serious manifestations of racial discrimination; there is a threat to impose more restrictions on medical services, which will leave 23 million persons without health insurance; there is unequal pay between men and women; migrants and refugees, particularly those who come from Islamic countries, are marginalized; there is an attempt to put up walls that discriminate against and denigrate neighbor countries; and international commitments to preserve the environment and address climate change are abandoned,” reads the statement from the Cuban government. “Also a source of concern are the human rights violations by the United States in other countries, such as the arbitrary detention of tens of prisoners in the territory illegally occupied by the U.S. Naval Base in Guantánamo, Cuba, where even torture has been applied; extrajudicial executions and the death of civilians caused by drones; as well as the wars unleashed against countries like Iraq, under false pretenses like the possession of weapons of mass destruction, with disastrous consequences for the peace, security and stability in the Middle East.”
There are two important points to make about the future of Cuba-U.S. relations. First, Trump is not going to be restoring “wet foot, dry foot,” which was a policy that allowed for Cuban refugees to be granted legal permanent residency. President Obama drew a lot of ire from Cuban-Americans when he eliminated the program January 12, 2017, just before leaving office. The second point worth noting is that Americans will no longer be able to travel to the U.S. individually anymore. Any person traveling to Cuba for non-academic educational purposes will have to travel in a group.
You can watch Trump’s full Cuba speech below.
READ: Trump Is Expected To Change The U.S. Policy On Cuba After A Review Led By Cuban-American Politicians