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Cuba: Trump is insane, according to Einstein
Published on June 17, 2017 Email To Friend    Print Version

trump_cuba_policy.jpg
US President Donald Trump signed a new executive policy on Cuba in Miami on Friday. Photo: ACN

By Caribbean News Now contributor

MIAMI, USA -- A quote commonly attributed (rightly or wrongly) to Albert Einstein defines insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. On Friday, US President Donald Trump did exactly that by reverting to a sanctions policy in relation to Cuba that failed for 55 years, but apparently expecting a different result.

A corresponding sentiment is attributed to one of Trump's predecessors, Theodore Roosevelt: "Americans learn only from catastrophe and not from experience."

Trump on Friday signed a national security presidential memorandum ordering federal agencies to start writing regulations within 30 days to promulgate his new policy restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba and a clampdown on US business dealings with the island’s military, saying he was canceling former President Barack Obama's "terrible and misguided deal" with Havana.

"Effective immediately, I am canceling the last administration's completely one-sided deal with Cuba," he declared.

However, Trump left in place many of Obama’s changes, including the reopened US embassy in Havana.

Joining Trump and Vice President Mike Pence at the event were the architects of his Cuba policy, Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.

Travel to Cuba will become more difficult. Cubans will still be able to visit family and send money but Americans will have to travel as part of formal groups with set itineraries if they want to qualify under categories that allow educational and people-to-people cultural exchange trips. Another category, for support for the Cuban people, is more stringent but will still allow for individual travel. US travelers will be prohibited from spending money at hotels and restaurants tied to the Cuban military.

How strictly the US will enforce the restrictions will depend on the regulations federal agencies write -- and whether the Cuban government tries to work around them.

The changes are intended to cut off cash to Cuban leader Raúl Castro’s regime, which controls about 60 percent of the island’s economy through military-run enterprises, and pressure the Cuban government to let the nascent private sector grow.

Backers of Obama’s policy argue tightening travel restrictions will reduce US tourism and only hurt the very small businesses Trump hopes to help.

“This policy was clearly written by people who have never been to Cuba, at least not in this century,” James Williams, head of Engage Cuba, a group that lobbies for closer Cuba ties, said in a statement. “Because if they had, they’d know that the only think that restricting travel will do is devastate Cubans working in the private sector who have relied on American visitors to provide for their families.”

Trump justified his partial reversal of Obama’s Cuba measures on human rights grounds, however, his critics have questioned why his administration is now singling out Cuba for its human rights record but downplaying the issue in other parts of the world.

The LA Times commented in an editorial that Trump just reopened the Cold War with Cuba. His excuse was completely disingenuous: “Trump decides to draw a line at Cuba’s human rights policies? He could at least try to make a fake excuse a little more believable."

Marselha Margerin of Amnesty International noted that Trump recently traveled to Saudi Arabia, where he lavished its leaders with praise and signed a huge military deal but ignored their flagrant human rights abuses.

"It's a bit hypocritical how the US government addresses human rights violations in different countries," she said.

The reversal in ties comes despite overwhelming support of Americans for their right to visit Cuba, and the recent reintroduction of a bill sponsored by 55 US senators promoting the freedom to travel to the Caribbean island.

According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, 75 percent of Americans support improved links between Havana and Washington.

The Morning Consult group noted that six out of ten Republicans support the process towards the normalization of relations between the two countries.

"It's heartbreaking," said Patrick Hidalgo, a Cuban-American and former director of the White House Business Council under Obama. "We all know that Raúl Castro and the leadership in Cuba will be fine. They don't worry where they're going to get breakfast, lunch and dinner. The average Cuban does, and our policy has helped them. This change will have a very direct, negative impact on their daily lives and their morale."
 
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