Back to the past with U.S.-Cuba relations
Are the Trump administration’s new stricter rules on travel and trade with Cuba a return to the past? The Cold War days. Likely. Is that a shame? Well, yes and no.
The new regulations announced last week cancel any direct U.S. financial transactions with 180 entities tied to the Cuban military and intelligence and security services. We can’t argue with the soundness of that move. It’s possible this correction of the flow of money from the U.S. to the Castro regime was needed.
In Cuba, for the most part, the government owns everything. Money goes into its pockets — not the people’s. It’s naive to think otherwise.
Many of the entities U.S. companies no longer can strike new deals with come under the umbrella of Cuba’s military conglomerate GAESA. They include hotels, marinas, tourism agencies, industries, stores and beverage manufacturers.
No doubt, reasons for the tightening of rules include President Donald Trump’s willingness to undermine one of former President Barack Obama’s crowning accomplishments — the easing of relations with Cuba frozen for more than 50 years.
But another reason is this: Is it possible that in the Obama administration’s rush to “get this done” before Obama’s presidency ended certain things were let go — for now, hoping they would work themselves out with the Cuban government?
Well, two years later, the reprehensible sonic attacks on scores of U.S. diplomatic personnel living on the island is unacceptable — regardless of whether the Cuban government carried out the attack or not. It occurred on their soil.
So, this all important issue — a re-examination of where the money injected into the island’s economy from the U.S. flows — is in order.
From the start, these negotiations with Cuba were tricky. In January 2015, Roberta Jacobson, the top U.S. negotiator at normalization talks with Cuba, sat down with the Miami Herald Editorial Board on her way back to Washington. At the time, Jacobson said she was optimistic, but didn’t want to raise expectations too high, given the attitude of the Cuban delegation.
“I don’t want to build people’s hopes too high around a process, which will take a long time but is the true normalization of relations and change,” she said.
Two years is obviously not long enough. Cuban officials said last week the new U.S. rules will harm the Cuban economy and its state and private sectors. But the change also will channel economic activity away from the military.
And wasn’t that the whole idea of the easing relations? So that the interaction would somehow bring change for the Cuban people?