President Donald Trump will visit Miami next Friday to announce he will tighten some restrictions on those who travel to and do business with Cuba, fulfilling a campaign promise to reverse historic changes former President Barack Obama made more than three years ago when he removed decades of diplomatic and economic barriers between the two countries.
The specifics of Trump’s executive action aren’t yet clear, according to sources familiar with the administration’s discussions. But it’s expected to bear the stamp of two pro-embargo anti-Castro Miami Republican hardliners, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who helped advise the White House and national security officials.
The exact location of Trump’s announcement isn’t clear, either. White House advance teams are scoping out spots this weekend.
The Obama administration established normal trade and diplomatic relations with the communist Cuban government in December 2014. Months later Obama became the first sitting president to visit the country since Calvin Coolidge. In July 2015, the U.S. reopened its embassy in Havana. Last December, shortly before Obama left office, the U.S. abstained for the first time from an annual vote at the United Nations calling for elimination of the embargo against Cuba.
Many expect that Trump will not reverse Obama’s decision to open a U.S. embassy in Havana or reinstate the “wet-foot/dry-foot” policy that allowed Cuban immigrants who touched U.S. shores to become legal residents.
The decades-old U.S. embargo remains in place and cannot be lifted without approval by Congress, thanks to the so-called Helms-Burton Act that Diaz-Balart’s brother, former Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, pushed President Bill Clinton to sign in 1996.
As a presidential candidate, Trump was difficult to pin down on his opinions about U.S.-Cuba policy.
In the early months of his successful White House run, Trump called Obama’s rapprochement with Cuba “fine” but also boasted that he could have cut a better deal with the Castro regime.
As the general election grew closer and needing to win over Cuban-Americans in Florida, the billionaire businessman morphed into more of a hardliner.
“All the concessions that Barack Obama has granted the Castro regime were done through executive order, which means the next president can reverse them — and that I will do unless the Castro regime meets our demands. Not my demands. Our demands,” Trump told some 2,500 cheering supporters in Miami last September.
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SOURCE: Politico, Marc Caputo and Sergio Bustos