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In a speech on June 16 in Miami’s Little Havana, President Donald Trump announced the beginning of a broad rollback of US-Cuba policy changes championed by the Obama administration.
President Trump’s Miami speech took a hard line, well received by the hometown crowd. He called out the Obama administration by name, claiming “the previous administration’s easing of restrictions on travel and trade does not help the Cuban people, they only enrich the Cuban regimes.”
However, the President did not go into detail on what changes he intends to make.
There may be a good reason for that. Many of the reforms the anti-normalization crowd at President Trump’s speech most want to see will not be part of the Trump administration’s intended deal.
Officials have confirmed they will not seek reinstatement of the controversial “wet foot, dry foot” policy, which granted special asylum rights to undocumented migrants from Cuba while denying them to migrants from other countries.
Nor will the deal cut off diplomatic relations with Cuba, which were reinstated by the Obama administration in 2015, 54 years after the Cold War-era diplomatic freeze between the two countries.
It won’t even halt American tourism, or put new limits on the right to bring home popular, and until recently, illegal, Cuban souvenirs like rum and cigars.
The Trump administration is vague on what changes it actually intends to make, though officials have identified extradition of political prisoners and transactions between American businesses and those owned by the Cuban government as priorities.
No specifics have yet been provided, and no firm timetable has been set for reforms.
The administration has indicated it expects to issue new regulations within roughly 30 days, and implementation and enforcement may take much longer.
Finally, no official statement has been made regarding the most intractable issue in US-Cuban relations: the United States trade embargo.
On the whole, trade between the United States and Cuba is illegal, though as of 2000 the US has legalized exports of food and medical supplies.
Cuban imports remain banned. Opponents of the embargo identify that ban as a major cause of poverty in Cuba and a lost opportunity for American business, echoing a 2009 US Chamber of Commerce report, which estimated that the trade embargo costs the United States 1.2 billion dollars per year.
Supporters of the embargo cite Cuba’s ongoing human rights abuses and restrictions on free trade as reasons for Cuba to remain an unacceptable trading partner barring substantial political change.
The “Cuban Thaw” under Obama was largely recognized as a first step toward limiting, if not outright eliminating the trade embargo.
It has also been consistently viewed as a pro-business move, and failing to address the issue seems uncharacteristic of the passionately pro-business Trump administration.
The nation was elated when the United States and Cuba started relations again so it will be interesting to watch these policies progress.