Trump team: Cuba must change more
2 aides, Rubio tie thaw with U.S. to reforms by Havana
WASHINGTON — The Cuban government must move toward enacting greater freedoms for its people and giving Americans something in return if it wants to keep warmer U.S. relations initiated by President Barack Obama, top aides to President-elect Donald Trump said Sunday.
The comments by Trump advisers Kellyanne Conway and Reince Priebus came after the death of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Castro’s younger brother, 85-year-old Raul Castro, took control in 2006, and later negotiated with Obama to restore diplomatic relations.
Priebus, Trump’s incoming chief of staff, said Trump would “absolutely” reverse Obama’s opening to Cuba unless there is “some movement” from the Cuban government.
“Repression, open markets, freedom of religion, political prisoners — these things need to change in Priebus Conway order to have open and free relationships, and that’s what President- elect Trump believes, and that’s where he’s going to head, “Priebus told “Fox News Sunday.”
Conway made similar remarks and noted that any diplomatic deal will have to benefit American workers.
“To the extent that President Trump can open up new conversations with Cuba, it would have to be a very different Cuba,” she told ABC’s “This Week.”
She added: “He wants to make sure that when the United States of America, when he’s president, engages in any type of diplomatic relations or trade agreements that we as Rubio America are being protected and we as America are getting something in return.”
Conway said nothing on Cuba has been decided. But she noted that the U.S. is allowing commercial aircraft to do business with a repressive Cuban government and Cuban military. And she said the “first order of business” is to rally the international community around trying to free political prisoners.
While Obama opened some U.S. investment and travel to Cuba through executive order, vast restrictions tied up in the trade embargo remain at the insistence of Republican lawmakers. Cuban President Raul Castro and President Barack Obama acknowledge fans in March at a baseball game between Cuba’s national team and the Tampa Bay Rays in Havana.
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, whose parents were born in Cuba, says he is heartened by Trump’s past hard-line rhetoric on Cuba.
Rubio told CNN’s “State of the Union” that the U.S. focus must be on its own security and other interests and on encouraging a Cuban democracy.
“We should examine our policy t oward Cuba through those lenses,” he 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.”
In Miami, celebration turned to somber reflection and church services Sunday as Cuban-Americans largely stayed off the streets after a raucous daylong party in which thousands marked the death of Fidel Castro.
In Havana, workers spruced up the capital’s sprawling Revolution Plaza and set up fencing Sunday in preparation for two days of tributes to the former leader. Throngs of islanders are expected to pay their respects to Castro’s remains there starting Monday in the shadow of Havana’s towering monument to independence hero Jose Marti and a huge sculpture of revolution leader Ernesto “Che” Guevara.
Although some world leaders and celebrities are expected to attend the memorial services, as of Sunday the White House had not said whether anyone from the U.S. government would attend.