Opening Ties with Cuba Aided Castro Repression
The Trump alteration to the Obama Cuba policy will directly impact commercial ties between the U.S. and the Castro regime.
The American Enterprise Institute notes that
“Trump’s announcement Friday in Miami takes the first steps toward cracking down on commercial ventures and tourism that aid the dictatorship. It also scuttles efforts in Congress to liberalize travel or arrange taxpayer-financed credit for exports to the debt-ridden government…The windfall of tourism travel—which the Cuban government says has increased by 75% in the last year—is a primary target. The Obama Administration skirted the law by removing virtually all restrictions on travel; the tourism industry is more dominated than ever by entities linked to the Cuban military. Trump’s plan will restore licensing requirements to ensure that travel is purposeful and structured, falling within one of 12 authorized categories of travel, including for religious, educational, scientific, cultural purposes. The most important Trump initiative is forbidding U.S. companies and individuals from doing business with the state-run conglomerate GAESA (Grupo de Administración Empresarial, S.A.). GAESA, which experts on the Cuban economy say generates as much as 80% of the country’s business revenue, is directed by Luís Alberto Rodríguez, son-in-law of dictator Raúl Castro. The firm’s holdings include retail stores, gas stations, and nearly 60 hotels, and Rodriguez is the gatekeeper to any foreign firm seeking to do business on the island. This vast family-controlled business empire gives the Castro clan a stranglehold over Cuba’s economy, with an aim of dictating the terms of the country’s future.”
A bipartisan statement by U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-Florida), Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) and U.S. Representative Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Florida) welcomed President Trump’s initiative.
“… many Cubans say human rights conditions on the island have worsened since President Obama’s visit to the island in March 2016. Human rights groups documented nearly 500 political arrests during President Obama’s trip alone, and nearly 10,000 political arrests in all of 2016. And as these negotiations were ongoing, the Castro regime continued its anti-American activities, such as smuggling weapons to North Korea, illegally holding a U.S. Hellfire missile, continuing to harbor fugitives from U.S. justice like FBI “Top Ten Most Wanted Terrorist” Joanne Chesimard, and openly allowing Russian ships to dock in its ports to conduct espionage against the U.S.
“Just this year, Cuban dissident Dr. Óscar Elías Biscet was arrested and detained for his affiliation with an organization that supports democratic policies in Cuba and the Americas. Separately, last month during the May Day parade in Havana, a man with an American flag was tackled and hauled away by Castro’s security forces. And for 104 consecutive Sundays, members of the courageous Ladies in White have been harassed and arrested on their way to Mass.
“Unfortunately, the previous administration’s policy is currently funding this brutality and repression. Cuba’s military monopoly, Grupo de Administración Empresarial SA (“GAESA”), which is run by Raul Castro’s son-in-law, is the biggest business enterprise on the island, and also serves as the brutal instrument for suppressing the Cuban people’s liberty and right to self-determination. GAESA controls every aspect of the Cuban economy – including tourism – through its shell companies. It even controls foreign remittances flowing to Cubans from relatives abroad, taking a significant percentage of every transaction.
“GAESA has taken full advantage of the new U.S. engagement. It has absorbed all of the benefits of American business, and has left virtually nothing for the average citizen on the island. This flow of funds has only given the Castro regime additional resources to oppress those who dare to freely express themselves.
“Nothing will change in Cuba as long as GAESA maintains its tight control over the economy, and freedoms are not protected. President Trump understands this, and his new Cuba policy will ensure that the United States truly empowers the Cuban people instead of the dictatorship. The changes he announced will assist Cubans struggling for liberty by ensuring that U.S. policy toward Cuba actually benefits the Cuban people.
“The new policy will also enforce human rights protections for Cubans and help connect them to the free world by guaranteeing free and unimpeded access to information, including from sources currently unavailable to the majority of Cubans such as telecommunications and the internet. The right to independent, outside information from any source is a fundamental right protected under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. U.S. policy must support that right…”
Originally published on the New York Analysis of Policy and Government.
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