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Trump Revives Failed U.S. Theory That Cubans Will Be Best Helped by Harming Americans (and Cubans)

The president rolls back some of Obama's "completely one-sided deal with Cuba," reasserts that America will be a champion of liberty in "our hemisphere."

During his speech this afternoon in a Little Havana theater named after one of the participants in the United States' disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion, President Donald Trump reasserted the principles behind more than half a century of backfired Washington attempts to drive the communism out of Cuba. "With God's help," Trump said, "a free Cuba is what we will soon achieve." That tantalizing dream has been eluding American presidents since before the invention of the audio cassette.

"I am canceling the last administration's completely-one sided deal with Cuba," the pleased president proclaimed to a rapt audience that included Sen. Marco Rubio among other Cuban-American notables. As the Miami Herald archly added, "even though he's not." In fact, Trump's plan leaves intact Obama's moves two and a half years ago to normalize diplomatic relations, allow for direct U.S. flights, quadruple the amount of remittances that can be sent to the island, and enable unlimited travel by family members of Cubans.

What the plan does do, among other things, is re-require individual Americans to obtain travel permission slips from the Department of Treasury's aptly named Office of Foreign Assets Control. "We will enforce the ban on tourism," Trump crowed. Traditionally, the upper band on said enforcement has been 10 years in prison for unauthorized visitation. As Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a supporter of Obama's approach, told Reason in Havana 18 months ago, "These aren't sanctions on Cubans, these are sanctions on Americans....It's not a concession to allow your own population to travel. That's an expression of freedom."

To support this crackdown on Americans, Trump claimed that "The previous administration's easing of restrictions on travel and trade do not help the Cuban people—they only enrich the Cuban regime." But that claim does not survive contact with reality. American tourists give money directly to Cuban Airbnb operators, street musicians, private restaurant owners, and artists, many of whom now own their own property. Sure, those entrepreneurial Cubans have to cough up various tributes to the state, but there is no doubt that their own personal lot has improved. As Flake told us, "You have about 25 percent of Cubans who work fully in the private sector....The big change [since 2001, when he started visiting there] is the number of Cubans being able to not have to rely on government and therefore can hold their government more accountable."

Today's biggest other development was ordering the Treasury Department to promulgate rules prohibiting or at least limiting American investors' involvement in the Cuban military monopoly, which owns swaths of the local economy, including hotel chains.

Most of the rest of the changes are symbolic, if pretty interesting. In a stark departure from his speech in totalitarian Saudi Arabia, in which he emphasized that "We are not here to lecture—we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship," Trump in Miami sounded more like Ronald Reagan at the Brandenburg Gate: "To the Cuban government, I say put an end to the abuse of dissidents. Release the political prisoners. Stop jailing innocent people. Open yourselves to political and economic freedoms. Return the fugitives from American justice, including the return of the cop killer Joanne Chesimard." Also, "We will not lift sanctions on the Cuban regime until all political prisoners are freed, freedoms of assembly and expression are respected, all political parties are legalized, and free and internationally supervised elections are scheduled."

Trump was explicit about the cognitive dissonance therein: It's the hemisphere, stupid.

On my recent trip overseas, I said the United States is adopting a principled realism, rooted in our values, shared interests, and common sense. I also said countries should take greater responsibility for creating stability in their own regions. It's hard to think of a policy that makes less sense than the prior administration's terrible and misguided deal with the Castro regime. [...]

America will expose the crimes of the Castro regime and stand with the Cuban people in their struggle for freedom. Because we know it is best for America to have freedom in our hemisphere, whether in Cuba or Venezuela, and to have a future where the people of each country can live out their own dreams.

So it appears that Trump's version of realism includes the concept of natural spheres of influence, which may prove of interest much further than 90 miles away.

Reason on Cuba here.

Photo Credit: Matt Welch

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  • Jerryskids||

    It's gonna take a few years to get Trump Resorts Havana built, then Cuba will be open for business. Believe me, it's gonna be a yuge deal, you'll love it.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Now you're talking. The Con Man should get his Russian mobster buddies to finance Trump-World in Havana.

  • Crusty Juggler - Elite||

    "The previous administration's easing of restrictions on travel and trade do not help the Cuban people—they only enrich the Cuban regime."

    Don't spend money in America, because in America the government could steal up to 40% of a person's income.

  • Libertarian||

    The "trading with the enemy" law always amused me. It restricted what Americans could do, not Cubans.

  • Libertarian||

    "Sure, those entrepreneurial Cubans have to cough up various tributes to the state, . . ."

    Thank god that doesn't happen in THIS country!

  • Crusty Juggler - Elite||

    "To the Cuban government, I say put an end to the abuse of dissidents. Release the political prisoners. Stop jailing innocent people. Open yourselves to political and economic freedoms. Return the fugitives from American justice, including the return of the cop killer Joanne Chesimard."

    Obama should have been saying this sort of stuff, too.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    He did. You just won't find it on wingnut.com.

    Also, Obama released a record amount of US political/drug prisoners.

  • Migrant Log Chipper||

    That ain't saying much, dipshit. A handful vs. a smaller handful, he's a real reformer....

  • IceTrey||

    "Stop jailing innocent people", as the US has the largest prison population on the planet.

  • Tony||

    It's possible we are simply by far the worst people in the world.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Tony has finally reached some semblance of self-awareness.

    Statists firmly believe that everyone except them is naive, gullible, stupid, evil, and in every way incapable of thinking for themselves.

    Tony in a nutshell.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    It's possible we are simply by far the worst people in the world.

    All Muslim nations are worse. Every slimy motherfucking one of them.

  • MarkLastname||

    "All Muslim nations are worse. Every slimy motherfucking one of them."
    While I can't speak to the overall quality of all the people in them, in terms of governance, yes, every single Muslim nation is worse than us.

    Or is asserting that executing homos is worse than incarcerating meth heads too much punching down for your taste?

  • Dizzle||

    Then leave. Seriously, go. See ya bye.

  • Hank Phillips||

    I thought it was quoting McKinley, up until the part about handing over the reconcentrada instead of "Remember the Maine!"

  • Fuck You - Cut Spending||

    Nothing promotes freedom quite like additional regulations.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    The Con Man lies again (Cuba this time):

    AP FACT CHECK: Trump keeps much of Obama's Cuba policy

    http://www.sfchronicle.com/new.....226194.php

    (Concurs with Reason)

  • Dizzle||

    I get you love playing the "gotcha" game, but reality is clearly going right over your head. Just like it leading up to and during the election. Most people, even libertarians like me, that voted for the guy did so because of a small few America centric issues that trump focused and honed in on.

    We literally don't care if his associates made money in a foreign country, where his wifes clothes are made, or if you think he's racist for trying to secure our border or restrict immigration. We voted mainly to secure an originalist/conservative supreme court justice (check), cut regulations (check), lower the corporate income tax (moving toward check), and put America and our interests first (check on most accounts, pipelines, Paris, energy investment, etc)

    If he keeps doing these things and putting us first he will be reelected. No amount of concocted scandal, charges of bully or racism, or anonymous claims of untoward influence will change that.

    What you liberals don't realize is everyone else has become so sick of you attempting to infuse your social justice campaigns into every sector of American life weve simply stopped caring about them. That's why so many democrats crossed the aisle for trump or simply went apathetic for hillary. And why pro choice and pro life republicans all got behind him. We want whats best for the country, and we put these issues well above the social ones liberals like yammering about.

  • Dizzle||

    I get you love playing the "gotcha" game, but reality is clearly going right over your head. Just like it leading up to and during the election. Most people, even libertarians like me, that voted for the guy did so because of a small few America centric issues that trump focused and honed in on.

    We literally don't care if his associates made money in a foreign country, where his wifes clothes are made, or if you think he's racist for trying to secure our border or restrict immigration. We voted mainly to secure an originalist/conservative supreme court justice (check), cut regulations (check), lower the corporate income tax (moving toward check), and put America and our interests first (check on most accounts, pipelines, Paris, energy investment, etc)

    If he keeps doing these things and putting us first he will be reelected. No amount of concocted scandal, charges of bully or racism, or anonymous claims of untoward influence will change that.

    What you liberals don't realize is everyone else has become so sick of you attempting to infuse your social justice campaigns into every sector of American life weve simply stopped caring about them. That's why so many democrats crossed the aisle for trump or simply went apathetic for hillary. And why pro choice and pro life republicans all got behind him. We want whats best for the country, and we put these issues well above the social ones liberals like yammering about.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    So arms sales to Saudi Arabia are good, right?

  • buybuydandavis||

    Reason still pimping for slave state sex vacation tourism. Sad.

  • Ken Shultz||

    The question for Trump on this issue really isn't about whether engagement is better than disengagement.

    The real question is what this does for Trump's chances of carrying Florida in 2020.

    Cuba is a big issue in a hotly contested swing state.

  • Devastator||

    Yet Putin is his best buddy, and he sells a hundred billion dollars of weapons to one of the biggest state sponsors of terror in the world (along with one of the most abusive societies towards women on the planet). Trump just isn't all there.

  • Africanis||

    We deal with the Iranians, Russians and China! Human rights never gets in the way of a making good money. This was just about dismantling Obama policy. If the Cubans come to the table and make a better deal, I don't see the harm. There should have been conditions on normalization other than, hey you guys should be nicer to your peeps!

  • Rebel Scum||

    and he sells a hundred billion dollars of weapons to one of the biggest state sponsors of terror in the world

    The US has been selling/giving arms to all manner of foreign entities for quite some time now. It is disingenuous to act like this is new. Besides, it's not like he sent Iran pallets of cash in various currencies amounting to the billions or anything...

  • Sevo||

    Devastator|6.16.17 @ 8:31PM|#
    "Yet Putin is his best buddy,"

    I'm sure you can prove this.

  • Robert||

    Well, was Trump depicted in the Putin Pals cartoons?

  • Robert||

    OK, but just keep in mind that "he sells" (assuming you mean Trump, not Putin) means "his gov't gives permission to private biz to sell".

  • Robert||

    I don't mind it if Trump placates the neocons by minor concessions like this, if he can just get more forbearance by them in the much bigger deals going down in world affairs.

  • Eman||

    That, bro, is one cool story!

  • Azathoth!!||

    I don't understand how you keep doing this--

    To support this crackdown on Americans, Trump claimed that "The previous administration's easing of restrictions on travel and trade do not help the Cuban people—they only enrich the Cuban regime." But that claim does not survive contact with reality. American tourists give money directly to Cuban Airbnb operators, street musicians, private restaurant owners, and artists, many of whom now own their own property. Sure, those entrepreneurial Cubans have to cough up various tributes to the state

    Undermining your point in the same paragraph in which you try to make it.

    In case that it's still to difficult to understand, the fact that they pay bribes to the government means that Trump's claim survived contact with reality.

  • Hank Phillips||

    US tourism revenue graphs show no decrease from 2016. So if this place is bad, then the other places must, as Lysander Spooner pointed out, be worse. Should export the Second Amendment?

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Cuba is a nasty totalitarian State. There is anargument for freeing it with military force. Of course, the same could be said of New Jersey. If we aren't going to invade (and we aren't) we should trade with them normally.

  • Mark P||

    Castro actually was a Russian puppet who actually did collude with Russia. Communist Cuba would have collapsed long ago if not for Russian weapons and a host of other Russian goods for Cuban sugar cane and cigars. Leftist hero Che Guevara brought Russian missiles to Cuba, and Castro defended Russian aggression against Eastern European countries because he was told to defend it by the Russians.

    Remarkably, today's liberals (e.g. Bernie Sanders and Colin Kaepernick) regard Castro as a hero: he gave the Cubans "free" education, ignoring the fact that this education forced the population to support Castro and communism or else.
    We should not be supporting the current regime in Cuba, and Trump should be worried about the political incarceration of anti-communist Americans in Cuba as well as North Korea.

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