US President Donald Trump announced that he was reversing crucial pieces of what he called a “terrible and misguided deal” with Cuba and will reinstate travel and commercial restrictions eased by the previous administration, the media reported.
During a speech on Friday night in Miami’s Little Havana, the epicentre of a Cuban exile community that supported him in the election, Trump said he was keeping a campaign promise to roll back the policy of engagement started by former President Barack Obama in 2014, which he said had empowered the communist government in Cuba and enriched the country’s repressive military, reports The New York Times.
“We will not be silent in the face of communist oppression any longer…Effective immediately, I am cancelling the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba,” Trump said at the Manuel Artime Theatre.
After the speech, he signed a six-page directive that ordered new travel and commercial restrictions while leaving in place some key Obama-era measures that eased sanctions.
As part of the new policy, Americans will no longer be able to plan their own private trips to Cuba, and those who go as part of authorised educational tours will be subjected to strict new rules and audits to ensure that they are not going just as tourists.
American companies and citizens will also be barred from doing business with any firm controlled by the Cuban military or its intelligence or security services, walling off crucial parts of the economy, including much of the tourist sector, from American access.
Embassies in Washington and Havana will stay open and cruises and direct flights between the Washington and Havana will be protected under an exception from the prohibition on transactions with military-controlled entities.
The President also directed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to convene a task force on expanding internet access on the island and reiterate the US opposition to efforts in the UNs to lift the Cuban embargo until more is done to honour human rights, reports CNN.
“To the Cuban government, I say, put an end to the abuse of dissidents, release the political prisoners, stop jailing innocent people, open yourselves to political and economic freedoms, return the fugitives from American justice,” Trump said.
In response, the Cuban government late Friday said that any attempt to change the political system on the island would be destined to fail.
“Any strategy aimed at changing the political, economic and social system in Cuba, whether it seeks to achieve it through pressures and impositions, or by employing more subtle methods, will be doomed to failure,” Efe news quoted President Raul Castro as saying in a statement.
While he acknowledged that changes in Cuba were necessary, pointing to the ongoing process of modernising and developing the island’s economic and socialist model, he insisted that Cubans would decide its own fate independent of foreign influence.
“We will assume any risk and remain firm and secure in building a sovereign, independent, socialist, democratic, prosperous and sustainable nation,” he added.
The statement added that Trump was “poorly advised” to favour the political interests of an “extremist minority” of Cuban-Americans living in Florida, who, because of “petty motivations, will not give up on their ambition of punishing Cuba and its people”.
The Cuban leader added that “the US is not in a position to give us lessons”, voicing “serious concerns” on the “numerous cases of murders, brutality and police abuses, the exploitation of child labour, racial discrimination and restrictions on healthcare services.”