Trump and Cuba: What exactly is at stake?

Recently, American President Donald Trump announced that his government would be rolling back on the “one-sided deal” with the Cuban state.

Donald Trump

After the Obama administration’s policy had fostered hope towards the normalization of bilateral relations, Trump’s announcement has created uncertainty regarding the future of the political ties between La Havana and Washington D.C.

The most significant announcement was the ban on all American transactions with the Armed Forces Business Enterprises Group, a euphemism for the Cuban government. Reactions in the Caribbean, the rest of Latin America, and within the United States have been widespread. Trump might have won a few cheers from some of his voters, but the North American nation will probably see some backlash for it.

The new measures have not completely reversed Obama’s progress towards normalized relations, but his modified stance does contain significant changes.

In the first place, the symbolism in the rhetoric used, once again, evokes conflict. Trump has called the Castro regime “brutal”, “terrible”, and “misguided”. Such an act does require diplomatic nerve, especially when the Trump administration recently closed ties with the Saudi government, despite their human rights violation record.

Secondly, as a Republican, Trump’s policy towards Cuba must cater to Cuban-Americans in the State of Florida, and their staunch anti-Castro attitude. It is no coincidence that the American president’s new stance towards Cuba was announced in Miami where most Cuban-American still support a total embargo.

Cuba did not take long to respond. In an official statement, the Cuban government stated that Trump’s new policy is “doomed to fail” and so is any subtle or explicit pressure to change the island’s “political, economic, or social system”. Furthermore, Cuba interprets the move as wanting to restrict commercial ties between American business and the Cuban military.

Stakeholders have also frowned upon the new measures. The American Chamber of Commerce has announced that many opportunities will be lost, and American Society of Travel Agents stated that Trump would "turn back the clock". Some Latin-American leaders have been more outspoken. Former Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa stated that Trump had “beaten the record of stupidities” when asked what he thought about the new American stance towards the Caribbean country.

While other Latin-American leaders and governments have not been so outspoken, it is no secret that the normalization of diplomatic ties between La Havana and Washington D.C. has been a common region-wide effort for quite some time. In fact, the reintegration of Cuba into the region’s international organizations and the end of the embargo are some of the few causes that are commonly shared by the governments of the region, despite ideological differences. The Trump administration will have to decide if the Cuban-American votes are worth the tension in the hemisphere.

LatinAmerican Post | Nicolas Villa
Copy edited by Susana Cicchetto

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