Reversing Obama's Cuba Policy Won't Help Cubans

Reversing Obama's Cuba Policy Won't Help Cubans

For more than five decades, a succession of US presidents - cowed by the right-wing Cuban community in Florida - enforced an economic embargo even though the policy increasingly isolated the USA from its neighbors in the hemisphere and its allies around the world. He signed off on depriving 23 million Americans of health care coverage in order to tighten the screws on Cuba.

The U.S. severed diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961 after Fidel Castro's revolution. Companies including agricultural equipment maker Deere & Co. and soybean processor Bunge Ltd., along with the federation, the biggest US farmer group, have supported full farm trade.

More broadly, the Trump administration appears to have learned one of the core lessons of recent sanctions-unwinding episodes: relieving certain sanctions pressure on rogues does not mean we need to give up all of our economic leverage.

U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba rose to $221 million in 2016 after three consecutive annual declines, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data compiled by Bloomberg. Williams, whose organization promotes the lifting of the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by Washington on Cuba, noted the results of a report recently drawn up by Engage Cuba, in conjunction with other groups, economists and experts. Cuba's authoritarian one-party system remains largely unchanged, and dissidents say government repression has increased over the past two years. "The goal is to feed the world, with the government getting out of the way".

Almost two decades ago, Congress exempted food and agricultural goods from the USA trade embargo on Cuba, opening the way for modest exports to the island.

Asked how Trump's past business interest in Cuba could affect his thinking on US policy, the White House referred comment to the Trump company. Even under trade restrictions, the US was the country's leading source of imports from 2003 to 2012. And U.S. companies will still be allowed to support telecommunications and Internet service on the island.

President Trump is expected to announce sweeping changes to U.S. -Cuba relations Friday, rolling back some key provisions in the Obama-era decision to open ease diplomatic and business restraints on the communist country.

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In the light of that kind of prediction, he noted the fact that although Trump says he is a president interested in promoting jobs and remove regulations that hinder growth, reversing the Cuba policy would be opposed to that. Trump is also likely to announce restrictions on travel between the two countries, threatening the daily flights between Florida and Havana.

"Cuba is ready to negotiate with the United States on equal terms about human rights on the island, but the human rights situation in the United States must also be addressed at the negotiating table, because we also have concerns about that issue", said Morales. Trump said he'd be "honored" to meet with North Korea's Kim Jong Un.

But it does signal a tougher stance that could slow the number of Americans who have begun to flood into Cuba for Havana city breaks or on weeks-long beach holidays. Senators including Republicans Mike Enzi of Wyoming and Jeff Flake of Arizona, along with Democrats Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Patrick Leahy of Vermont, introduced anti-embargo legislation last month.

A House bill limited to food exports would create an excise tax that would be used to compensate people whose properties were confiscated by Cuba's government. Cuba wants U.S. support to allow the telecommunication firms to work on their island.

Jorge Duany is director of the Cuban Research Institute and professor of anthropology at Florida International University.

Ahead of Friday's remarks, the Cuban government - including Cuban President Raul Castro - is signaling a willingness to negotiate with Trump.

"I think they appreciate the efforts of those agricultural industry associations in the USA that are trying to get regulations relaxed", Messina said. Though she had hoped to return, travel restrictions made that hard.

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