Cuba re­jects new US pol­icy, say­ing pres­sure will not work

South Florida Times - - CARIBBEAN - By As­so­ci­ated Press For­eign Min­is­ter Bruno Ro­driguez

MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN and AN­DREA RO­DRIGUEZ

HA­VANA - Cuba's for­eign min­is­ter re­jected Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump's new pol­icy to­ward the is­land, say­ing Mon­day that “we will never ne­go­ti­ate un­der pres­sure or un­der threat” and re­fus­ing to re­tur n U.S. fugi­tives who have re­ceived asy­lum in Cuba.

In a hard-edged re­sponse to the pol­icy an­nounced Fri­day, For­eign Min­is­ter Bruno Ro­driguez said from Vienna that Trump's re­stric­tions on trans­ac­tions with the Cuban mil­i­tary would not achieve their ob­jec­tive of weak­en­ing the gov­ern­ment. He said they would in­stead cre­ate unity be­hind the com­mu­nist lead­er­ship.

He de­scribed fugi­tives such as Joanne Ch­es­i­mard, a black mil­i­tant con­victed in 1977 of the mur­der of a New Jer­sey state trooper, as po­lit­i­cal refugees who had re­ceived asy­lum from the Cuban gov­ern­ment and would not be re­turned be­cause the U.S. has no “le­gal or moral ba­sis” to de­mand their re­turn.

Sur­rounded by Cuban-Amer­i­can ex­iles and Cuban dis­si­dents, Trump an­nounced from a the­ater in Mi­ami that the U.S. would im­pose new lim­its on U.S. trav­el­ers to the is­land and ban any pay­ments to the mil­i­tary-linked con­glom­er­ate that con­trols much of the is­land's tourism in­dus­try. Trump also de­clared that, “the har­bor­ing of crim­i­nals and fugi­tives will end. You have no choice. It will end.”

He said the U.S. would con­sider lift­ing those and other re­stric­tions only af­ter Cuba re­turned fugi­tives and made a se­ries of other in­ter­nal changes in­clud­ing free­ing po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers, al­low­ing free­dom of assem­bly and hold­ing free elec­tions.

“When Cuba is ready to take con­crete steps to th­ese ends, we will be ready, will­ing, and able to come to the ta­ble to ne­go­ti­ate that much bet­ter deal for Cubans, for Amer­i­cans,” Trump said.

Ro­driguez' re­sponse Mon­day was a clear sig­nal that there could be very lit­tle, if any, high-level U.S.-Cuba ne­go­ti­a­tion dur­ing Trump's time in of­fice. Al­ready, while work­ing-level meet­ing on top­ics such as search-and-res­cue have taken place since Trump took of­fice, no meet­ings be­tween top diplo­mats have oc­curred. It's a sharp con­trast to Obama's last year, dur­ing which top U.S. and Cuban diplo­mats met reg­u­larly to dis­cuss top­ics in­clud­ing law-en­force­ment co­op­er­a­tion and com­pen­sa­tion for Amer­i­cans whose prop­erty was taken dur­ing the 1959 Cuban rev­o­lu­tion.

“Cuba will not make con­ces­sions that harm its sovereignty,” Ro­driguez said. “We have never done in the his­tory of the rev­o­lu­tion.”

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF CUBASI

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