Cuban diplo­mat re­jects Trump roll­back, calls re­ver­sal ‘grotesque.’

Slams curb on re­la­tions as ‘grotesque’

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY ALEX ZIETLOW

In the Cas­tro regime’s first re­sponse since Pres­i­dent Trump an­nounced new curbs on re­la­tions with the is­land last week, Cuban For­eign Min­is­ter Bruno Ro­driguez Par­rilla ac­cused Mr. Trump of re­turn­ing to Cold War poli­cies and in­sisted Ha­vana will not be bul­lied dur­ing a news con­fer­ence Mon­day.

Talk­ing with re­porters on a visit to Aus­tria, Mr. Ro­driguez Par­rilla said the U.S. is in no po­si­tion to “lec­ture us on hu­man rights and democ­racy” and that Mr. Trump’s pol­icy re­ver­sal marked “a grotesque spec­ta­cle straight from the Cold War.” He said Wash­ing­ton was em­ploy­ing a “dou­ble stan­dard in the treat­ment of hu­man rights,” as­sert­ing that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s treat- ment to­ward Cuba goes against the Mr. Trump’s own “Amer­ica First” for­eign pol­icy.

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

Ad­dress­ing a cheer­ing crowd of Cuban-Amer­i­cans in Mi­ami last week, Mr. Trump kept a cam­paign prom­ise by an­nounc­ing new busi­ness and travel re­stric­tions on Cuba, although he did not break for­mal diplo­matic re­la­tions or cut off all com­merce — both of which were part of for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s out­reach to Cuba af­ter a half-cen­tury of a U.S. em­bargo.

Mr. Trump said the open­ing to Ha­vana, de­spite the hopes of Mr. Obama and oth­ers back­ing an end to a half­cen­tury of eco­nomic iso­la­tion for Cuba, had not im­proved hu­man rights on the is­land and had only “en­rich(ed) the Cuban regime.”

But Mr. Ro­driguez Par­rilla said that changes on the is­land will be de­ter­mined by the Cubans as a sov­er­eign peo­ple, adding that Ha­vana wouldn’t send Amer­i­can fugi­tives back to the U.S., which Mr. Trump said Fri­day was a nec­es­sary pre­con­di­tion to be­gin rene­go­ti­at­ing the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two coun­tries.

The Cuban diplo­mat also ar­gued that cut­ting back in­vest­ments and trade with Cuba was not even in the best in­ter­est of the United States. He cited a U.S. poll that said that 73 per­cent of Amer­i­cans agree with com­pletely rais­ing the eco­nomic block­ade.

Christo­pher Sa­ba­tini, a lec­turer at the School of In­ter­na­tional and Pub­lic Af­fairs at Columbia Univer­sity, said Cuba’s record on hu­man rights and civil lib­er­ties re­mains poor, but ar­gued that Mr. Trump’s re­ver­sal of Mr. Obama’s de­tente to force Ha­vana to im­prove its record on hu­man rights “doesn’t make any sense.”

He said Mr. Trump to date has not made hu­man rights a pri­or­ity in any of his other for­eign pol­icy ini­tia­tives, in­clud­ing im­prov­ing re­la­tions with coun­tries such as Saudi Ara­bia, Egypt and Rus­sia. Mr. Sa­ba­tini said Mr. Trump’s Cuba pol­icy may be a “po­lit­i­cal de­liv­ery” to anti-Cas­tro Cuban-Amer­i­cans — like Florida Re­pub­li­can Sen. Marco Ru­bio — who wanted to see a stronger stand against Cuba and who have long been a crit­i­cal vot­ing bloc in a crit­i­cal swing state.

“Ul­ti­mately, this is not an ‘Amer­ica first’ pol­icy,” Mr. Sa­ba­tini said. “This is a ‘Trump first’ pol­icy.”

Michael Shifter, pres­i­dent of In­ter-Amer­i­can Di­a­logue, a Wash­ing­ton think tank fo­cused on Latin Amer­i­can is­sues, said Mr. Trump’s Cuba pol­icy will have a “triv­ial” im­pact on the Amer­i­can econ­omy, but it could sig­nif­i­cantly hurt Cuba’s econ­omy be­cause it will make it harder for Amer­i­cans to travel in and out of the coun­try, and in­come from tourism will plum­met.

Mr. Trump’s or­der es­sen­tially bans Amer­i­can firms from hav­ing any deal­ing with en­ter­prises con­trolled by the Cuban mil­i­tary, which runs a sig­nif­i­cant chunk of Cuban econ­omy.

But Mr. Ro­driguez Par­rilla, whose re­marks were broad­cast live back in Cuba, showed no signs of back­ing down and was at times bit­ingly per­sonal in his crit­i­cism. He noted at one point Mon­day that Mr. Trump had won the 2016 elec­tion de­spite los­ing the pop­u­lar vote to Demo­cratic ri­val Hil­lary Clin­ton.

“That’s democ­racy in the United States,” he said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

“Cuba will not make con­ces­sions that harms its sovereignty,” said Cuban For­eign Min­is­ter Bruno Ro­driguez Par­illa dur­ing a news con­fer­ence Mon­day.

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