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Trump Threatens to Roll Back Obama’s Cuba Policy


President Obama met with the Cuban president, Raúl Castro, at the Revolution Palace in Havana in March. Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald J. Trump threatened on Monday to end President Obama’s push to forge diplomatic relations and relax sanctions against Cuba, suggesting that he might wipe away two years of executive action to strengthen ties if he cannot reach “a better deal” for both Cuba and the United States.

In a post on Twitter that came three days after the death of Fidel Castro, the father of Cuba’s revolution and embodiment of a half-century of suspicion and hostility between the United States and Cuba, Mr. Trump gave no details about what kind of changes he would seek in Mr. Obama’s policy.

But the comment hinted that the president-elect, who has been critical of the shift toward greater engagement between Americans and Cubans, is considering reinstating restrictions on commerce, trade and financial transactions that Mr. Obama has stripped away since he announced two years ago that he and President Raúl Castro had agreed to normalize relations.

He has already installed Maurico Claver-Carone, a Cuban-American who has been a harsh critic of Mr. Obama’s opening, on his transition team for the Treasury Department, which has issued several rounds of regulations to remove impediments for United States companies and individuals seeking to do business with Cuba and travel there.

Mr. Trump’s advisers were vague about what his approach would be on Cuba, telling reporters in a conference call that Mr. Trump would address the issue when he assumed office.

“To be clear, the president-elect wants to see freedom in Cuba for Cubans,” said Jason Miller, a spokesman.

But Mr. Trump has signaled already that his position will be starkly different than that of Mr. Obama, who has argued that isolating Cuba for decades had failed to force changes in the autocratic government there and it was time to forge closer ties, including by re-establishing diplomatic relations, loosening sanctions, and ultimately repealing the embargo — a step that would take a vote of Congress.

Because much of the thaw has been accomplished through executive action, even some Obama administration officials concede that it is highly vulnerable to reversal. Mr. Trump could, for example, order the State Department to review its decision last year to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, or suspend diplomatic relations that were resumed last summer. Unraveling the complex set of regulations that tore down obstacles to trade and commerce with Cuba could take longer and be more challenging.

Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, argued on Monday that Mr. Trump would have a hard time reversing a policy that has already yielded business deals that have bolstered American companies and benefited the people of both countries.

He noted that there would soon be 110 daily flights from the United States to Cuba, and that cruise, tour and hotel operators had already invested significant sums in building the infrastructure to support those visits. Citizens of both Cuba and the United States support the new policy overwhelmingly, he added.

“So unrolling all of that is much more complicated than just the stroke of a pen,” Mr. Earnest said, adding, “It’s just not as simple as one tweet might make it seem.”

Source: NYT > World

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