By Associated Press
Miami — Pressing “pause” on a historic detente, President Donald Trump thrust the U.S. and Cuba back on a path toward open hostility 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 President Barack Obama had opened.
The Cuban government responded Friday evening by rejecting what it called Trump’s “hostile rhetoric.” Still, Cuba said it is willing to continue “respectful dialogue” on topics of mutual interest.
Even as Trump predicted a quick end to 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, will remain intact. But, 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. In practice, however, many recent changes to boost ties to Cuba will stay as they are. Trump cast that as a sign the U.S. still wanted to engage with Cuba in hopes of forging “a much stronger and better path.”
In a statement released Friday evening on government-run websites and television, 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 U.S. 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 will remain open. U.S. airlines and cruise ships will still be allowed to serve the island 90 miles south of Florida. The “wet foot, dry foot” policy, which once let most Cuban migrants stay if they made it to U.S. soil but was terminated under Obama, will remain terminated. Remittances from people in America to Cubans won’t be cut off.
But individual “people-to-people” trips by Americans to Cuba, allowed by Obama for the first time in decades, will again be prohibited. And the U.S. government will police other trips to ensure travelers are pursuing a “full-time schedule of educational exchange activities.”
The changes won’t go into effect until new documents laying out details are issued. Once implemented, Trump’s policy is expected to curtail U.S. 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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