Despite much fanfare during the June 2017 ceremony of yet another Trump executive order, this one focusing on United States and Cuba relations. It took direct aim at limiting United States citizens desire to travel to the Caribbean’s largest country known as Cuba, in the disguise of clamping down on the Castro regime and their “oppressive” government. Some wonder who really are the winners or losers?
Until the promised new proposals are approved and the official start date is announced, current guidelines last updated by the Obama administration remain in force. To travel to Cuba and secure your “self-service” license from the United States Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets, you must fit into one of these 12 approved categories:
1. Family visits
2. Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations
3. Journalistic activity
4. Professional research and professional meetings
5. Educational activities
6. Religious activities
7. Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions
8. Support for the Cuban people
9. Humanitarian projects
10. Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
11. Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials
12. Certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines.
Why the rush to change the policy?
The exact time or circumstance is not known but some suggest it was at the Correspondent’s dinner in 2011 when President Obama publicly skewered Donald Trump while debunking his ridiculous “birther” claim. What is known is that once Trump secured the presidency he has been hell-bent on wiping away any legislative accomplishments executed by the Obama administration.
Trump found an ally in Rubio
Once political opponents tossed in a campaign to become the Republican nominee for the 2016 presidential race, Trump and United States Senator Marco Rubio were known for their aggressive attacks on each other. However, in the world of politics today’s foe might become tomorrow’s friend?
One group which became a campaign opportunity for Trump was the Cuban nationals who have built an impressive political power base in Miami. Many of them were displaced and exiled during the 60’s Cuban revolution and despise the Castro regime. Their leader was none other than Marco Rubio who had built an impressive coalition representing dissenting voices of the regime. They were very vocal and vowed revenge for the policies and guidelines enacted by President Obama towards Cuba.
Rubio’s group promised Trump support, including votes from the Cuban community in his exchange for dismantling what Obama had accomplished. More importantly, Trump found a political opportunity or another issue where he could retaliate against Obama.. Unfortunately Hillary Clinton beat him in the Miami-Dade or Little Havana communities by over 290,000 votes.
Nevertheless a deal was a deal! During that afternoon on June 16th, Rubio’s team consisted of Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, along with Rep. Carlos Curbelo, Gov. Rick Scott and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera. Rubio, Diaz-Balart and Alex Acosta. They joined Trump while he proclaimed, “Last year I promised to be a voice against oppression … and a voice for the freedom of the Cuban people,” he said. “You heard that pledge. You exercised the right you have to vote. You went out and voted and here I am like I promised.”
Done with great fanfare, the announcement by Donald Trump resulted in two specific guideline changes:
• Make it illegal for Americans to patronize facilities related to the Cuban military, and
• Make individual travel to Cuba far more difficult for Americans. Currently this is through a program known as people-to-people.
“President Trump’s clownish, red-meat speech to the aging remnants of the Bay of Pigs fiasco should not mislead us into believing—as much of the media did—that Senator Marco Rubio re-wrote Cuba strategy,” Richard Feinberg—Nonresident Senior Fellow, Latin America Initiative
The unknown is when will the guidelines be announced, let alone ready to be enforced?
“This presidential directive reveals a regrettable point of view. However, the policy itself (although based on the erroneous logic that coercion will produce policy change in Havana) fails to reverse the process of normalization, as it does not significantly interrupt the relations reached during the last two years.” Roberto Veiga Gonzalez, General Coordinator, Cuba Posible
In the past few years several Cuban nationals have voiced direct comments regarding Cuba and the United States relations. Their names shall remain anonymous but their comments are accurate as told directly to me.
“I love my country but I can’t keep fighting a battle that has long been decided! What does it gain? My life and health is too valuable. I can’t live for yesterday, I must live for today.”
“Once the revolution started, you either accepted the regime or you didn’t! I accept what our government did. I am so happy President Obama opened up relationship.”
“This embargo is laughable. Every nation of mankind is visiting Cuba, except the United States and that is a shame!”
“We are a socialist country which was supported by a communist country. That does not change the ideals we have as far as creating a system that we support. No country is perfect!”
- January 1, 1959, Fidel Castro’s 28th of July Movement ousted the Batista regime and took control of the Cuban Government.
- February 2, 1962, The United States imposed an enhanced embargo.
- December 17, 2014, President Obama and President Raul Castro agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations.
- July 20, 2015 Cuba Embassy reopened in Washington, DC. United States Embassy reopened in Cuba.
- September 2015 President Obama and President Raul Castro held first face to face meeting.
- June, 16, 2017 President Trump signed executive order amending policy/guidelines towards Cuba.
- July 17, 2017 Federal agencies affected by the Trump order are to have policy guidelines submitted for review.