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By Robert Donachie
President Donald Trump announced his administration’s policy towards the island nation of Cuba in a speech in Miami Friday afternoon.
“Effectively immediately, I am canceling the previous administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba,” Trump said before an energetic crowd in Miami Friday morning. “Our policy begins by strictly enforcing US Law. We will not lift the 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.”
The policy the president rolled out Friday includes four key objectives: enhancing compliance with U.S. law–in particular the provisions that govern the embargo of Cuba and the ban on tourism; holding the Cuban regime accountable for oppression and human rights abuses ignored under the Obama policy; furthering the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and those of the Cuban people; and, laying the groundwork for empowering the Cuban people to develop greater economic and political liberty.
The child of Cuban immigrants, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, spoke before the president. His message was simple: Trump’s policy towards Cuba will be one that empowers the Cuban people, not a government regime that has kept its citizens back for over five decades. The senator lambasted former President Barack Obama’s policies towards Cuba enacted in 2014, characterizing them as nothing more than giving handouts towards a communist, repressive government.
“A year and a half ago, an American president landed in Havana to outstretch his hand to a regime,” Rubio said. “Today, a new president reaches out his hand toward the people of Cuba.”
“You mark my words, whether it’s in 6 months or 6 years, Cuba will be free. And when it is, I believe that the people on the island and history will say that perhaps the key moment in that transition began on this day, on this stage, with all of you, and a president that is willing to get it done,” Rubio said. He promised that Trump’s policy will bring “freedom and liberty” to the island of Cuba.
The president echoed the senator’s comments.
“The prior administration’s terrible and misguided deal with the Castro regime,” Trump said. “They made a deal with a government that spreads violence and instability in the region. Now, those days are over. We now hold the cards. The previous administration’s easing of the restrictions on travel and trade do not help the Cuban people… just the regime.”
Trump pointed to a few of the oppressive acts committed over the years under the Castro-regime, including the suppression of free speech, imprisonment of dissenters, and the trading of nuclear arms to the communist regime of North Korea.
The president promised that his administration “will not hide” or turn a blind eye to the atrocities committed by the Castro-regime. “My administration will not hide from it, excuse it or glamorize it. We will never, ever be blind to it. We know what is going on and we remember what happened,” Trump said.
Trump said that his administration urges the Cuban government “to come to the table with a new agreement that is in the best interest of both their people, our people and also of Cuban government.”
The president’s announcement Friday is likely to catch flack from pro-Cuba groups, like Engage Cuba, that have ardently fought for months change the administration’s mind on the Obama-era policies towards the island nation. (RELATED: Rolling Back Obama Era Cuba Policies, ‘Would Be A Gift To Putin’)
“Over the past few years, hundreds of thousands of Americans have traveled to Cuba, stayed in private homes, eaten at privately owned restaurants, taken private taxi cabs and engaged with the Cuban people. Americans are significantly contributing to the growth of Cuba’s private sector,” President of Engage Cuba, James Williams, said in a statement released to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “You would be hard pressed to find a Cuban living on the island who would say that U.S. engagement has not improved their lives.”
“We’re hopeful that over the next 90 days, the Administration works with the business community and Cuban economy, academic and human rights experts to ensure that President Trump’s policy indeed works to empower the Cuban people, without infringing on the rights of Americans to travel freely,” Williams said. “Today was a speech. Tomorrow, we get back to work.”