A bipartisan effort from Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bob Menedez (D-NJ) and Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) has helped lead President Trump to walk back Obama’s reopening of relations with the island dictatorship.
Obama drastically changed Cuba policy during his time in office, reestablishing diplomatic relations, reopening travel, and easing restrictions on commerce with Cuba. His administration allowed all these reversals of longstanding US policy against the Communist nation without demanding concessions that would give the Cuban people freedom.
This information coming from an anti-embargo group, which spoke on the condition of anonymity, was confirmed Sunday by John Kavulich of the nonpartisan U.S. – Cuba Trade and Economic Council. “The Trump Administration has been ‘ready’ since February 2017 to announce changes, but issues unrelated to Cuba have intervened,” Kavulich said.
Trump himself has been on both sides of the issue. He told TheDC in 2015 that the “concept of opening with Cuba is fine,” but on the campaign trail he threatened to “terminate” deals that the Obama administration made with Cuba.
Diaz-Balart and Rubio both appear confident that Trump will enact a roll back of the Obama-era Cuba policy.
“I have no doubt that you’re going to see in short order a different policy,” Diaz-Balart has said. Menendez has not commented publicly on any potential changes to Cuba policy since Trump took office.
Oddly enough, some of the strongest opposition to any moves by Trump to undo Obama’s policy changes seems to be coming from the president’s fellow Republicans.
A bill introduced by Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake Thursday to remove all travel restrictions with Cuba has nine Republican cosponsors.
“Recognizing the inherent right of Americans to travel to Cuba isn’t a concession to dictators, it is an expression of freedom,” Sen. Flake said in a statement. “It is Americans who are penalized by our travel ban, not the Cuban government.”
It will certainly be interesting to see whether the White House enacts a return to pre-Obama Cuba policy, but no matter what happens, the Cuban people will be no more free than they were when Obama opened the door between Cuba and the United States. And that’s the biggest shame of it all.