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US-Cuba: Fools repeat their folly, says Rubio
Published on July 11, 2017Email To Friend    Print Version

Senator Marco Rubio

By Caribbean News Now contributor

MIAMI, USA -- On June 26, Florida Senator Marco Rubio tweeted a scripture verse: “As dogs return to their vomit, so fools repeat their folly. Proverbs 26:11”, apparently oblivious to the irony that just ten days earlier that is exactly what he did as one of the architects of US President Donald Trump’s regressive policy directive in relation to Cuba.

As we pointed out at the time, according to a quote commonly attributed (rightly or wrongly) to Albert Einstein, insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, in this case reverting to a sanctions policy in relation to Cuba that failed for 55 years.

Of course, the gloss may be rapidly wearing off the Trump-Rubio axis after the president tweeted that he and Russia are supposedly going to prevent future election meddling by forming a task force together and even ‘Little Marco’ decided that it might be time to abandon ship, tweeting in turn: “While reality and pragmatism requires that we engage Vladimir Putin, he will never be a trusted ally or a reliable constructive partner. Partnering with Putin on a ‘Cyber Security Unit’ is akin to partnering with Assad on a ‘Chemical Weapons Unit’. We have no quarrel with Russia or the Russian people. Problem is with Putin and his oppression, war crimes and interference in our elections.”

In relation to Cuba, rather than achieving the purported human rights outcomes, the new measures are likely to scare off US businesses looking to invest in the island, stifling the transition to reform that Cubans and Americans seek.

As Vicki Huddleston, former head of the US Interests Section in Havana from 1999 to 2002, pointed out in a letter to the New York Times, “Cuba will not move closer to the United States but further away, most likely toward Russia and China. Nor will Cuban-Americans and Cubans move any closer to reconciliation and forgiveness, a process that is essential if for no other reason than to stop American presidents -- Mr Trump is only the latest in a long line -- from using Cuba policy to gain political leverage in electoral-vote-rich Florida and from currying favor with Cuban-American legislators.”

Furthermore, Trump’s recent criticism of the state of human rights in Cuba reveals a great hypocrisy: the operation of a legally questionable military base that unlawfully holds and tortures prisoners has gone on for far too long, the Council on Hemispheric Affairs pointed out.

While the exact nature of the new prohibitions on US financial transactions with the military intelligence and security services, notably the Grupo de Administracion Empresarial (GAESA), which owns an estimated 60 percent of all commerce, including restaurants, rental cars and imports, have not yet been promulgated by the departments of Commerce and Treasury, more draconian regulations apparently meant little to Trump in the 1990s, when the US trade embargo made it illegal for any American to spend even a single dollar in the Cuban economy.

This document shows a Seven Arrows executive requesting reimbursement from Trump’s company for the Cuba trip, and suggesting that the trip was taken on behalf of a Catholic charity (although they got the name wrong -- it should be Caritas Cuba).
A story last year in Newsweek by investigative reporter Kurt Eichenwald -- citing former Trump executives, court filings and internal company papers -- said a company controlled by Trump spent at least $68,000 on a 1998 foray into Cuba.

Trump executives allegedly hired an outfit called Seven Arrows Investment and Development, which went to Cuba and investigated possible business opportunities for Trump's company, which was known at the time as Trump Hotels & Resort Casinos.

Seven Arrows then told Trump executives how to obscure any dealings in Cuba by linking the money to a false charity, the Newsweek report alleged.

Due to the US trade embargo, it was illegal at the time for an American company to spend any money in Cuba without government approval -- but Trump wanted to have a foothold in the country if the embargo was lifted.

According to a former executive, Trump was aware of the trip from the start, although he denied it and characteristically slammed Newsweek's reporter, saying he has a "bad reputation”.

"No, I never did anything in Cuba. I never did a deal in Cuba,” he said.

However, then campaign manager Kellyanne Conway inadvertently suggested that Trump had in fact violated the embargo.

“It turns out that he decided not to invest there. I think they paid money, as I understand from the story, in 1998,” she said.

Apparently Conway was unaware that spending any money in Cuba, even if Trump decided not to invest any money there, was a violation of US law.

At the time, Rubio acknowledged that what the Newsweek piece described was “a violation of American law” but that did not prevent him endorsing a return to regulations more honoured in the breach than in the observance by the president.
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