Pressing “pause” on a historic detente, US President Donald Trump thrust the US and Cuba back on a path toward open hostility on Friday with a blistering denunciation of the island’s communist government.
He clamped down on some commerce and travel, but left intact many new avenues former US president Barack Obama had opened.
The Cuban government on Friday evening responded by rejecting what it called Trump’s “hostile rhetoric.”
Still, Cuba said it is willing to continue “respectful dialogue” with the US on topics of mutual interest.
Even as Trump predicted a quick end to Cuban President Raul Castro’s regime, he challenged Cuba to negotiate better agreements for Americans, Cubans and those whose identities lie somewhere in between.
Diplomatic relations, restored only two years ago, are to remain intact. However, in a shift from Obama’s approach, Trump said trade and other penalties would stay in place until a long list of prerequisites was met.
“America has rejected the Cuban people’s oppressors,” Trump said in Miami’s Little Havana, the cradle of Cuban-American resistance to Castro’s government. “Officially, today, they are rejected.”
Declaring Obama’s pact with Castro a “completely one-sided deal,” Trump said he was canceling it.
However, in practice many recent changes to boost ties to Cuba are to stay as they are.
Trump cast that as a sign the US still wanted to engage with Cuba in hopes of forging “a much stronger and better path.”
In a statement released on Friday evening on government-run Web sites and TV, Cuban President Raul Castro’s administration said Trump’s speech was “loaded with hostile rhetoric that recalls the times of open confrontation.”
The lengthy statement went on to strike a conciliatory tone, saying Cuba wants to continue negotiations with the US on a variety of subjects.
“The last two years have shown that the two countries can cooperate and coexist in a civilized way,” it said.
Embassies in Havana and Washington are to remain open. US airlines and cruise ships are to still be allowed to serve the island 145km south of Florida.
The “wet foot, dry foot” policy, which once let most Cuban migrants stay if they made it to US soil but was terminated under Obama, is to remain terminated.
Remittances from people in America to Cubans are not to be cut off.
However, individual “people-to-people” trips by Americans to Cuba, allowed by Obama for the first time in decades, will again be prohibited.
In addition, the US government is to police other trips to ensure travelers are pursuing a “full-time schedule of educational exchange activities.”
Once implemented Trump’s policy is expected to curtail US travel by creating a maze of rules for Americans to obey.
The policy bans most financial transactions with a yet-unreleased list of entities associated with Cuba’s military and state security, including a conglomerate that dominates much of Cuba’s economy, such as many hotels, state-run restaurants and tour buses.
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