Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

In Miami, President Trump announces Cuba policy change

From the heart of the nation's Cuban community, President Donald Trump pulled back on his predecessor's re-engagement with Cuba on Friday, outlining travel and business restrictions designed to choke off money to the military but leaving other policies in place.

"What you have built here — a vibrant culture, a thriving neighborhood, the spirit of adventure — is a testament to what a free Cuba could be," Trump said from Miami's Little Havana. "And with God's help, a free Cuba is what we will soon achieve."

He was joined by Vice President Mike Pence, Cuban-American politicians and Cuban dissidents, inviting one on stage and kissing her on the cheek. He asked violinist Luis Haza, whose father was killed under Fidel Castro, to perform The Star-Spangled Banner. And Trump repeatedly framed it as fulfilling a campaign pledge made last year in Miami.

"We will not be silent in the face of communist oppression any longer," he said, casting the decision in human rights concerns. "Stop jailing innocent people," Trump implored the Cuban regime. "Open yourselves to economic and political freedoms."

The shift — coming on the two-year anniversary of Trump announcing his candidacy — takes aim at President Barack Obama's 2014 decision to end decades of detachment from the island nation, and bans U.S. business with the military-run conglomerate that controls much of Cuba's economy.

Individual travel to Cuba also will be curtailed, with Trump calling for a prohibition on trips not related to academic study pursuant to a degree program and not under the auspices of an organization that sponsors "people-to-people" contact. Individuals who have already booked trips have several months before the new regulations are implemented.

Despite Trump's characterization that he was "canceling" Obama's "completely one-sided deal," it is not a wholesale reversal of the rapprochement, which has widespread public support outside the Cuban exile community.

Travel through organized groups is still permitted, as well as business unrelated to the Cuban military conglomerate known as GAESA. Planes and cruise ships can still head to Cuba, and Americans are free to bring home rum and cigars. Diplomatic posts in Havana and Washington are unaffected.

Trump also maintains Obama's decision to get rid of the "wet foot, dry foot" policy that allowed Cuban immigrants who reached U.S. soil to remain legally.

Exact regulations will not be hammered out for several months. One major component will be how tightly the U.S. government enforces requirements for travelers to keep records of financial transactions.

Trump traveled to Miami on Air Force One with two of the architects of the new policy, Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who sharply criticized Obama for giving up too much to the Cuban government for little in return.

"A year and a half ago, a president, an American president, landed in Havana, to outstretch his hand to a regime," Rubio said to boos inside Manuel Artime Theater. "Today, a new president lands in Miami to reach out his hand to the people of Cuba."

The son of Cuban immigrants, Rubio said the changes empower the people of Cuba. "So that they can enjoy the freedom and the liberty, with a very clear message: America is prepared to outstretch its hand and work with the people of Cuba, but we will not, we will not empower their oppressors."

Trump lavished praise on Rubio, who last year battled him for the GOP presidential nomination, and handed him a pen used to sign the policy directive.

"You deserve it," Trump said.

The directive orders the Treasury and Commerce departments to come up with regulations on business and travel and does not need congressional approval.

Critics said the moves could backfire by curtailing growth in Cuba's private business sector fueled by a flood of American visitors. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce criticized the move, as did some American companies.

Still others questioned why Trump hadn't taken such an interest in human rights with other countries, such as Saudi Arabia.

Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, addressed a group Friday afternoon at Tampa International Airport, where Southwest Airlines flies daily to Havana, to denounce the change.

"It will really complicate our neighbors' ability to travel to Cuba. It will make it more expensive, more costly and add bureaucratic red tape," she said. "He needs to allow Americans to be Americans and grant us our freedom to travel."

Jose E. Valiente, former chair of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, said while Trump (and Rubio) cast the changes as designed to help the Cuban people, it could end up hurting them, particularly small business owners. "If the American tourists aren't going to be coming in the numbers they expected, it's going to hurt them immediately."

A recent study found about 614,000 Cuban-Americans and other U.S. travelers went to Cuba in 2016, up 34 percent from the year before.

"Additional prohibitions and oversight on travel will only confuse Americans and dissuade them from visiting Cuba, causing significant economic hardship to Cuban entrepreneurs and average Cuban families, as well as Americans working in the hospitality sector," said Collin Laverty, president of Cuban Educational Travel, which arranges group trips to the island.

Overall, public opinion polls have shown widespread support for the diplomatic reset as well as ending the decades-old trade embargo, which remains in place.

Trump, though, cast the shift as necessary to force more change — a stance echoed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who said, "Whether it's popular or not, America must stand for freedom."

Trump once supported Obama's thaw but took a harder line during the presidential campaign, vowing in Miami to reverse course. Rubio pressed him to make good on his promise and played a critical role in developing the policy.

Politically, the two men savored victory Friday. Trump is eager to show he is getting things done despite the growing probe into Russian interference in the election and Rubio can take credit for rolling back one of Obama's signature accomplishments.

Signing his own revisions, Trump remarked: "So this says, 'strengthening the policy of the United States toward Cuba.' And I can add, 'strengthening a lot.' So this is very important, and you watch what's going to happen. Going to be a great day for Cuba."

Times staff writer Anastasia Dawson contributed to this report, which includes information from the Miami Herald.



How Trump's new Cuba policy

stacks up against Obama's

Here's a look at a dozen changes in policy undertaken during the Obama era and how they stack up against the new policy announced by Trump.

Barack Obama position

1. Renewed diplomatic

relations with Cuba

2. Reopened U.S. Embassy

in Havana

3. Removed Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism

4. Rescinded wet foot, dry foot policy

5. Signed bilateral agreements with Cuba on everything from narcotics cooperation and cancer research to protection of marine environments

6. Broadened scope of travel for Americans

7. Restored regularly scheduled commercial air service

8. Authorized cruise lines to sail Cuban itineraries

9. Allowed more leeway for U.S. companies to operate in Cuba

10. Resumed direct mail service

11. Expanded trade opportunities to allow purchases from Cuban private sector

12. Expanded cultural, athletic and educational exchanges

Donald Trump position

1. Will continue

2. Stays open

3. Isn't addressed in the directive

4. Won't be reinstated

5. Not specifically addressed in directive

6. Stops individual people-to-people travel

7. Flights will continue

8. Cruises will continue

9. Bars most business dealings with entities controlled by Cuban military

10. Will continue

11. Desire to support Cuban private sector

12. Not specifically addressed

Miami Herald

In Miami, President Trump announces Cuba policy change 06/16/17 [Last modified: Friday, June 16, 2017 8:49pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. After huge sinkhole opens, residents weigh future with unease

    Public Safety

    LAND O'LAKES — The wood floors creak each time Kendra Denzik dashes inside her darkened home to grab fresh clothes. She can't help but panic when they do.

    Eleven families along Ocean Pines Drive in Land O’Lakes homes are fenced in due to the massive sinkhole from last Friday on Thursday, July 20, 2017. The Doohen’s are among 11 families who had to evacuate from their homes.
  2. Tampa Club president seeks assessment fee from members

    News

    TAMPA — The president of the Tampa Club said he asked members last month to pay an additional assessment fee to provide "additional revenue." However, Ron Licata said Friday that the downtown business group is not in a dire financial situation.

    Ron Licata, president of the Tampa Club in downtown Tampa. [Tampa Club]
  3. Under Republican health care bill, Florida must make up $7.5 billion

    Markets

    If a Senate bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 becomes law, Florida's government would need to make up about $7.5 billion to maintain its current health care system. The bill, which is one of the Republican Party's long-promised answers to the Affordable Care Act imposes a cap on funding per enrollee …

    Florida would need to cover $7.5 billion to keep its health care program under the Republican-proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.  [Times file photo]
  4. Minors also a training ground for umpires with big-league dreams

    The Heater

    Umpire Tom Fornarola, 23, left, and Taylor Payne, 24, facing, talk before the start of the Gulf Coast League game between the New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers at the Tigertown complex in Lakeland, Fla. on Wednesday, July 5, 2017.
  5. In Florida, nation's only lightning center closes after DARPA cuts funding (w/video)

    Environment

    University of Florida professor Martin Uman usually spends much of this summer at an old Army base about an hour northeast of Gainesville, shooting rockets at thunderclouds, then measuring the bright flashes of lightning that followed.

    Rocket-and-wire triggered lightning at the University of Florida's International Center for Lightning Research and Testing, which recently lost federal funding. A rocket trailing a grounded wire is launched toward an active thunderstorm at the ICLRT. One launch is from a tower, one from ground. When the wire is about as high as the Empire State Building, lightning is induced to strike the top of the wire, much as it strikes tall objects like the ESB. Interestingly, the cloud charge source is about 3 miles high, so a 300 yard-long wire can cause a 3 mile or more long lightning.  After that, there are several normal tortuous strokes ( downward leaders from the cloud charge/upward return strokes) which can be seen as the wind blows the individual strokes to the right. The time between strokes is about 50 thousands of a second. Between some strokes, continuing current can be seen. Continuing current is what generally starts forest fires. [Photo by Dr. Dustin Hill]