Trump Would Be Wrong to Reset U.S.-Cuba Policy
United States President Donald Trump, alongside Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, spoke to a Miami crowd on Friday announcing his rollback of former President Barack Obama's rapprochement with Cuba. The boisterous cheers reached a climactic roar when the president declared the official cancellation of the U.S.-Cuba deal.
According to the new directive, diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana and their respective embassies will stay open. It will, however, push for tighter restrictions on tourism and business dealings with commercial entities owned by the military.
If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 28, 2016
Circumventing the congressional U.S. embargo on the island, the Obama administration took action in December 2014 to thaw icy relations with Cuba, an act that, according to Pew Research Center, enjoys overwhelming support from the American public; 75% to be exact.
Garnering political points from the strong Cuban-American lobby, Mr. Trump is attempting to fulfill a rather empty promise to his Floridian constituents. Reversing course on the Obama-era policy initiatives with Cuba is a mistake for several reasons.
First, the 56-year-old strategy of isolation did little to accomplish America's goal of getting Cuba to do what it otherwise would not do. In other words, the Cuban government continued to act in its own interests with little regard for the economic pressure stemming from the embargo. Counterintuitively, the Cuban government used the embargo as an excuse to double-down on its actions.
Democratic values in Cuba, such as freedom of speech and basic human rights, were consistently repressed during the latter half of the 20th century. Therefore, to expect a different outcome from the same failed policy is irrational.
Second, Mr. Trump's ambiguous six-month stance regarding Cuba did not encourage American businesses to push for greater investment on the island. Riding high on the coattails of the Obama initiative, business leaders capitalized on information conveyed between both governments, which resulted in the safe investment of capital. The lack of commercial urgency does little to convince the president to adopt a policy favorable to businesses.
Third, the rest of America's economic competitors, namely China, have a strong interest in the evolving U.S.-Cuba dynamic. In terms of potential economic gains, many European and Canadian investors perceive an advantage over America's hesitation to work with Cuba. U.S.-Cuba relations during Mr. Obama's lame-duck term galvanized many of these outside parties to secure investment opportunities before the U.S. realized its failure to act more swiftly.
New governmental initiatives will always take time to visibly yield any fruitful gains. However, abiding by a tired policy, which, for decades, produced no benefits for any of the parties involved, is bound to sow deeper divisions and mistrust between the neighboring countries.