In December of 2014, President Obama announced that the U.S. and Cuba would restore diplomatic relations, and by March 2016 promised the removal of the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba; allowing American money to fund the undemocratic government in power in Havana.
After Obama met the Cuban leader, Raul Castro, brother of former dictator Fidel Castro, Obama vowed that “change would happen in Cuba” and that Castro understood that.
Now, at the call of millions of Cuban-Americans and to fulfill a critical campaign promise, the only thing that has changed is President Donald Trump who has now reversed the Obama policies on Havana, calling for “a free Cuba” in his June 16 speech announcing the new U.S. policy.
“What you have built here — a vibrant culture, a thriving neighborhood, the spirit of adventure — is a testament to what a free Cuba could be. And with God’s help, a free Cuba is what we will soon achieve,” Trump said.
Cuba’s 2016 Human Right Watch report painted a damning picture of the nation Obama was convinced change was approaching. Despite lifting the sanctions, the report concluded, “The Cuban government continues to repress dissent and punish public criticism… Short-term arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders, independent journalists, and others have increased dramatically in recent years. Other repressive tactics employed by the government include beatings, public shaming, and termination of employment.”
Obama opened the doors to U.S. trade with corporations, not run by the Cuban people, but run by the Cuban military to fuel this oppressive government.
Now, President Trump’s policy change will assist both Cuban Americans and the Cuban people by once again attempting to persuade the government there to stand for the values of liberty and justice in order to have a relationship with the United States.
In Trump’s address in Miami on the issue, Trump made clear that U.S. cash will no longer flow to the Cuban military monopoly, Grupo de Administración Empresarial (GAESA) but can be used to develop economic ties with the small, private business sector. With the military run GAESA acting as one of the largest barriers to private entrepreneurship in Cuba, this will urge the Cuban government to finally provide economic liberty to the people.
In order to ensure that human rights progress is made, Trump’s policy change will mandate regular reporting on Cuba’s progress toward greater political and economic freedom. Trump has made clear Cuba’s relationship with the United States will depend entirely on their willingness to improve the heinous acts their government has committed.
Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning affirmed in a statement that, “The decision to stop rewarding the communist dictator has reaffirmed the United States position as a global leader in the pursuit of individual liberty for all. By refusing to fund a government that continues to jail and torture political dissidents, President Trump sent the clear message that the U.S. does not only spread wealth, it also spread the values of our country; individual liberty, justice, and democracy.”
To ensure this, person to person travel between the two countries will once again be halted. For a nation which relies on a state-run tourism industry to fuel their government, this will stop U.S. travelers from fueling the Cuban government’s oppression. While preventing ordinary citizens from traveling, Trump will still allow direct relatives to travel to and from the island.
Son of Cuban immigrants, Marco Rubio assisted with the policy change and summed up the Trump Administration’s aim at the Miami event in noting that, “Less than a year and a half ago an American president landed in Havana to outstretch his hand to a regime. Today, a new president lands in Miami to reach out his hands to the people of Cuba…more than anything else this change empowers the people of Cuba, not the government, not the regime, but the people; so that they can enjoy the freedom and liberty with the very clear message that America is ready to outstretch its hand.”
The United States has been a defender of freedom in Cuba before, and with President Trump’s action, is finally reclaiming that status. Trump vowed to put America first, and on Cuba, he has proved that that also sometimes means putting American values first.
Natalia Castro is a contributing editor for Americans for Limited Government.
Trump reinstates sanctions on Havana, calls for ‘a free Cuba’