Trump has finally found something to give to Vladimir Putin: Cuba

Russia is moving quickly to reassert influence in its old satellite 90 miles from the US

Donald Trump is rolling back the opening to Cuba that his predecessor, Barack Obama, began, and we should ask a couple of questions.

If the purpose is to hasten change on the island, is this going to be helpful? Second, what are the motivations behind this semi-reversal? To please his base, or to deliver a sly gift to Vladimir Putin and snub his own Republicans on Capitol Hill?

The declared intention of American policy has been consistent: to force the Castro regime to move towards democracy and to restore the human rights of the Cuban people. Obama took the view that the 50-year-old effort to isolate and impoverish had been a dismal failure that had only ensured more pain for regular Cubans. The smarter way was to engage with Cuba.
Human rights organisations agree. “The previous administration was right to reject a policy that hurt ordinary Cubans and did nothing to advance human rights,” said Daniel Wilkinson, managing director for the Americas at Human Rights Watch in Washington, DC. “The fact that Obama’s approach hasn’t led to political reform in Cuba after just a few years isn’t reason to return to a policy that proved a costly failure over many decades.”

The admonitions to Trump to leave well alone came from other quarters too. Corporate America, which sees opportunities on the island, urged him to desist and so, of course, did many Democrats. Equally alarmed are those Cuban-Americans who are a generation apart from the old guard of Cuban exiles, mostly in Miami, for whom the embargo is an anachronism.

It’s why CubaOne, a group of young Cubans in the US dedicated to widening contacts with the island, wrote to Trump trying to pre-empt his announcement. “As a presidential candidate, you said that you would pursue ‘a better deal’ with Cuba,” the letter said. “To the majority of Americans and our Cuban-American community, a ‘better deal’ means advancing US interests and improving the quality of life of the Cuban people, not returning to Cold War policies.”

Trump ignored all this and travelled to Miami on Friday to outline the changes he was making. Some things will remain the same – the US embassy that Obama re-opened in Havana stays as do the dispensations for American cruise ships and planes to serve the island. It will still be possible for Cuban-Americans to send as much money as they want to their families.

But the old restrictions on tourist visits by Americans are returning. Under the Obama rules, all you needed to do was tick a box saying you had some additional purpose to visit the island – family connections, educational exchange or what-have-you – and you were free to go as a solo visitor, just as with any other holiday destination. The box-ticking was meaningless; no one policed it. Now all that will be forbidden again. Unless they are part of some organised tour, Americans will again risk being accused of breaking the law. The embargo, for tourists, is back.

The biggest chill cast on America’s barely-born Cuba tourist trade, however, will be a new prohibition on any American entity or individual doing business with GAESA, a conglomerate controlled by the Cuban military that accounts for roughly 80 per cent of the island’s tourist economy. It owns most of its major hotels not to mention tour buses and restaurants. If this is fully enforced, it will wreak havoc on the nascent US-Cuba travel scene. There is Airbnb in Cuba. But, as you can imagine, choice is limited.

But then there is the Kremlin. By retreating from Cuba, Trump risks creating fresh space for Russia to reassert itself there. Just last month Russia resumed oil shipments to Cuba after a hiatus of over a decade – its saviour in the interim has been Venezuela. As Venezuela falls apart at the seams, Cuba needs someone else to stop it collapsing too. If not America, then Russia. Putin recently forgave 90 per cent of Cuba’s debts to his country. There are reports that Russia is in talks about opening a military base on the island again. You get the picture.


  • Corporate America, which sees opportunities on the island, urged him to desist

    But but but trump is for the corporate and will do anything to enrich them. Hahaha. Another democrat narrative down the drain. And who care Russia can have it, both Cuba and Russia are ruled by dictators and both have violate human rights. We shouldn't be doing business with Cuba and enriching the communists. The democrats will defend this even knowing that its a communist country but what the hell its they type of country they want the US to become.
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