Why Trump wants to reverse the normalization of ties with Cuba
September 17, 2016
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump told supporters in Miami
on Friday that if elected, he would reverse President Obama's steps to
normalize relations with Cuba unless the government there assented to US
demands on political and religious freedoms.
"The president's one-sided deal for Cuba benefits only the Castro
regime," Mr. Trump told the crowd, according to the Guardian. "But all
of the concessions that Barack Obama has granted the Castro regime were
done with executive order, which means the next president can reverse
them. And that is what I will do unless the Castro regime meets our
demands. They include religious freedom for the Cuban people and the
freeing of political prisoners."
The candidate's comments are closer in tone to the blistering
prescriptions of former Republican-primary foe Marco Rubio – a
Cuban-American senator from Florida who has served as the chamber's
voice of hard-line conservative advocacy on Cuba – than the more
resigned-sounding stance of Trump's earlier iterations.
Asked last September by the Daily Caller for his opinion on the
normalization, Trump called it "fine", while adding that he believed "we
should have made a better deal." In March, he suggested that if steps
toward normalization "worked out," he might even open a hotel there,
according to CNN.
The more severe tone seems to underscore the enduring importance of
Cuban-American conservative voters in Florida, even as public opinion on
normalization with Cuba has warmed. As Politico notes, Florida is a
must-win swing state for Trump. He may be seeking to drum up support
among Cuban-Americans, particularly in Miami-Dade County, where local
Republican leaders have largely withheld their support for him, citing
his rhetoric on immigration – and where he lost handily to Senator Rubio
in the primaries, his only loss in the entire state. A majority of
registered Republicans in Miami-Dade are Hispanic, many of them of Cuban
Much of the Republican Party is still pro-embargo. But as public opinion
in Florida begins to change, some members of the GOP have shown signs of
openness to Cuba as well.
A poll conducted by Florida International University after President
Obama's March visit to Cuba found that 63 percent of Cuban-American
respondents in Miami-Dade County, the community's historic heart,
opposed the embargo. Large majorities also supported increased economic
and diplomatic engagement.
As The Christian Science Monitor's Howard Franchi wrote in January 2015
after the Obama administration announced new rules on travel and trade
with the island, Republicans in the Senate "both condemned and praised"
"This is a windfall for the Castro regime that will be used to fund its
repression against Cubans, as well as its activities against US national
interests in Latin America and beyond," Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida
Republican and Cuban-American, said in a statement.
Countering the Obama argument that US engagement and economic activity
will benefit Cubans more than isolation, he added, "this one-sided deal
is enriching a tyrant and his regime at the expense of US national
interests and the Cuban people."
But other Republicans praised the new regulations and signed on to the
Obama argument that economic engagement and an expanded American
presence can help foster political change – an argument with deep
On Friday, Trump also made gestures of solidarity with Miami's
Venezuelan community, one that often makes common cause with Cuban exiles.
"Miami is full of hard-working Venezuelans," he said, according to the
Guardian. "The next president must stand with all people oppressed in
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