Trump’s threat to end Cuba de­tente may rouse GOP op­po­si­tion

Jamaica Gleaner - - BUSINESS - – AP

PRES­I­DENT-ELECT Don­ald Trump’s threat Mon­day to ‘ter­mi­nate’ the US de­tente with Cuba could trig­ger op­po­si­tion from some Repub­li­can law­mak­ers and cor­po­rate leaders who favour con­tin­ued en­gage­ment with Ha­vana.

Since 2014, when Pres­i­dent Barack Obama be­gan to nor­malise re­la­tions with the is­land, the United States has taken nu­mer­ous steps to in­crease com­mer­cial travel, com­merce and the flow of in­for­ma­tion to Cuba. On Mon­day, the first reg­u­larly sched­uled com­mer­cial flight in more than 50 years from the US to Ha­vana landed while pas­sen­gers aboard the Amer­i­can Air­lines jet cheered.

Fol­low­ing Fidel Cas­tro’s death Fri­day at age 90, top aides to Trump sig­nalled that the Cuban gov­ern­ment must move to­ward en­act­ing greater free­doms for its peo­ple and giv­ing Amer­i­cans more in re­turn if it wants to keep the warmer US ties that Obama ini­ti­ated. Cas­tro’s younger brother, 85year-old Raul Cas­tro, took con­trol in 2006, and later ne­go­ti­ated with Obama to re­store diplo­matic re­la­tions.

Trump’s aides said noth­ing on Cuba has been de­cided. But Trump tweeted Mon­day, “If Cuba is un­will­ing to make a bet­ter deal for the Cuban peo­ple, the Cuban/Amer­i­can peo­ple and the US as a whole, I will ter­mi­nate deal.”

CAU­TIONED

Sen Jeff Flake, R-Ariz, a fre­quent critic of Trump dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, cau­tioned in a state­ment against re­turn­ing to a ‘get tough’ pol­icy that iso­lates Ha­vana and re­stricts travel and busi­ness ac­tiv­i­ties. Such an ap­proach, Flake wrote over the week­end, will hurt the Cuban peo­ple and make the US gov­ern­ment “a con­ve­nient scape­goat for failed so­cial­ist poli­cies”.

Flake, who ac­com­pa­nied Obama dur­ing a visit to Cuba in March, said “al­low­ing more fre­quent and con­se­quen­tial ties be­tween Cubans and Amer­i­cans is more likely to ac­cel­er­ate the de­sired change in Cuba”.

Sev­eral air­lines be­gan routes to other Cuban cities ear­lier this year. Mon­day morn­ing’s Amer­i­can Air­lines flight was the first of the new Ha­vana-bound ser­vice and the first of four daily flights the air­line plans out of Miami In­ter­na­tional.

The travel in­dus­try is ea­ger to cap­i­talise on the re­cent de­tente with Cuba, which is 90 miles from Key West, Florida, and has the po­ten­tial to be a top Caribbean des­ti­na­tion.

The Miami Herald has re­ported Jet Blue will start twice-daily ser­vice from Or­lando on Tues­day and Fort Laud­erdale on Wed­nes­day. On Thurs­day, Spirit Air­lines and Fron­tier Air­lines be­gin fly­ing from Fort Laud­erdale and Delta flights will take off from Miami, New York’s JFK air­port and At­lanta. South­west starts daily ser­vice from Fort Laud­erdale on De­cem­ber 12.

PUSHED FOR MORE TRADE

Sen John Booz­man, R-Ark, has pushed for ex­panded trade with Cuba and in June backed an amend­ment to a gov­ern­ment spending bill that would lift the ban on pri­vate banks and com­pa­nies of­fer­ing credit for the ex­port of agri­cul­tural com­modi­ties to Cuba.

“We’ve had good in­ten­tions be­hind our iso­la­tion pol­icy to­wards Cuba, but the re­sults have not changed,” Booz­man said. “It’s time to try a new ap­proach.” Booz­man’s of­fice did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment on Trump’s tweet.

An­other Repub­li­can from an agri­cul­tural state, Sen Jerry Mo­ran of Kansas, has ar­gued for eas­ing US re­stric­tions that pro­hibit Amer­i­can farm­ers and ranch­ers from sell­ing their prod­ucts to Cuba. Mo­ran said last year that Cuba im­ports the bulk of its food and is a nat­u­ral mar­ket for US agri­cul­ture, “es­pe­cially the hard red win­ter wheat grown in Kansas”.

Mo­ran’s of­fice did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment on Trump’s tweet.

But Trump’s hard-line stance on Cuba strikes a chord with other GOP law­mak­ers, in­clud­ing Sen Marco Ru­bio. And while Obama opened por­tions of US in­vest­ment and travel to Cuba through ex­ec­u­tive or­der, Repub­li­can leaders in Congress have staunchly op­posed his calls to end the 55-year-old US trade em­bargo of the is­land.

Ru­bio, whose par­ents were born in Cuba, told CNN’s ‘State of the Union’ on Sun­day that the US fo­cus must be its own se­cu­rity and other na­tional in­ter­ests and en­cour­ag­ing Cuba to move to­ward democ­racy.

“We should ex­am­ine our pol­icy to­wards Cuba through those lenses,” Ru­bio said. “And if there’s a pol­icy that helps that, it re­mains in place. And if it’s a pol­icy that doesn’t, it’s re­moved.”

We’ve had good in­ten­tions be­hind our iso­la­tion pol­icy to­wards Cuba, but the re­sults have not changed. It’s time to try a new ap­proach.

United States Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump

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