Will Trump Freeze the U.S.-Cuba Thaw?

Will Trump Freeze the U.S.-Cuba Thaw?

President-elect Donald Trump has threatened to “terminate” the opening to Cuba that is a hallmark of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy.

On Monday, Trump took to the Twitterverse to partially clarify his stance on Cuba, days after the death of Cuba’s former leader Fidel Castro. “If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban-American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal,” Trump said.

Trump’s top advisers, including Kellyanne Conway and incoming chief of staff Reince Priebus, earlier told Sunday news shows that the president-elect was open to dialogue with Cuba only if Havana offered more concessions, including releasing political prisoners.

“President-elect Trump has been pretty clear,” Priebus told Fox News Sunday, dispelling none of the doubts over just what the president-elect might mean. “We’ve got to have a better deal.”

Conway shed no light of her own on ABC’s This Week on Sunday. “To the extent that President Trump can open up new conversations with Cuba, it would have to be a very different Cuba,” she helpfully said.

On the campaign trail in September, Trump promised to reverse Obama’s “one-sided” deal that benefited “only the Castro regime” unless Cuba met his demands. “Those demands will include religious and political freedom for the Cuban people and the freeing of political prisoners,” Trump clarified.

In a news release on Saturday, the president-elect called Castro a “brutal dictator” whose “legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights.”

President Barack Obama, who reopened U.S.-Cuba diplomatic relations in 2015, took a more measured tone in his statements on Castro’s death. “History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him,” he said. The outgoing president thawed relations with the small Caribbean communist state after 54 years of trade and travel restrictions meant to weaken Havana’s hold on power.

This may not be the first deal Trump’s overseen in Cuba. In September, Newsweek reported that one of Trump’s companies conducted business in Castro’s communist state, violating the U.S. embargo on Cuba. Trump steadfastly denied ever doing business in Cuba.

President John F. Kennedy first severed ties with Cuba in 1961 at the height of the Cold War and two years after Castro seized control of the island. The communist guerrilla leader and southpaw pitcher ran Cuba for over 50 years before retiring and ceding power to his brother Raúl in 2008.

Photo credit: AFP PHOTO/Adalberto ROQUE