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Fecteau: Adiós Cuba

Sunday, June 18, 2017

 

President Barack Obama recognized the United States embargo against Cuba was counterproductive to American interests and appropriately relaxed its restrictions. In turn, Mr. Obama made it much easier for Americans to the visit the Caribbean island and for businesses to import Cuban goods. The boon in tourism jump-started Cuba’s sluggish economy and increased American influence. 

While the deceased strongman Fidel Castro’s brother, Raul, remains in power, with appropriate prodding from the United States and the Obama administration, the Cuban regime loosened its grip on the economy, allowed greater press freedom, and expanded personal liberties. This is a direct result of relaxed relations between the two countries. But President Donald J. Trump has now changed that. 

Mr. Trump reversed Obama’s relaxed stance towards Cuba calling it a "terrible and misguided deal” and called the Cuba government a “brutal, brutal regime.” Under Trump’s revised policy, while Cubans living in the states still can travel to Cuba, and the U.S. embassy remains open on Cuban soil, Americans once again are restricted from traveling to the island, and business transactions are also limited. 

Trump’s rhetoric doesn’t appear to be based in reality. The United States has normal diplomatic and trade relations with many other dictatorships that have far worse human rights records. In fact, President Trump negotiated an arms deal with prominent human rights abuser Saudi Arabia valued at $100 billion. 

One of the most oppressive regimes throughout the world, Saudi Arabia denies women rights, decapitates alleged criminals, amputates limbs, and quite literally crucifies children. If human rights were a concern, Saudi Arabia should have crossed his mind. 

Trump also called Cuba a national security threat. As evidence, Mr. Trump cites an attempt back in 2013 when Cuba tried to ship obsolete weapons to North Korea. 

However, on closer inspection, even this doesn’t make any sense. China routinely sells arms to North Korea, and Trump’s BFF Russian President Vladimir Putin authorizes weapon sales to North Korea regularly. The United States has decent relations with China, and Trump has called for better relations with Russia. 

Trump’s bizarre stance on Cuba appears to be more a political swipe at President Obama than an authentic criticism. For an island located just 90 miles from Key West, the United States should play an influential role in Cuban political aspirations but has failed to because of the embargo, which more contained the regime than undermined it. 

Mr. Trump – who himself illegally conducted business in Cuba — brought back an antiquated policy designed for the Cold War that failed for over 50 years. Cuba will once again be an isolated island, deprived of important and influential American interaction simply because the President is more fascinated in living in the past, or perhaps more interested in scoring political points. 

Mr. Trump’s obsolete stance on Cuba is something that belongs to the annals of history, not a contemporary policy position. Adiós Cuba, been fun.  

Matt Fecteau ([email protected]) of Pawtucket, Rhode Island was a Democratic candidate for office in 2014 and 2016. He is a former White House national security intern and Iraq War veteran. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewFecteau

 

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