Trump claims to be tougher on Cuba than hardline advisor

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HAVANA – Adelaida Borges spent decades as a schoolteacher before finding fame as a fortune teller.
Her flamboyant outfits and long, colorful fingernails have drawn hordes of American visitors, from Beyoncé and Katy Perry to Michelle Obama.
But for all her powers, 77-year-old Borges says she never imagined U.S.-Cuba relations would fall apart so quickly.
“Many Americans came to visit. We were happy to see them,” said Borges, also known as Señora Habana, or Mrs. Havana. But these days, she said, few Americans are stopping by her spot near the Havana Cathedral.
Borges blames Donald Trump, who replaced Barack Obama’s strategy of engagement with stepped-up economic sanctions.
“I don’t know why Trump has such hate for Cuba,” she said.

Fortune teller Adelaida Borges entertains tourists in Old Havana.

Some people wonder if U.S.-Cuba relations might improve now that Trump has fired National Security Advisor John Bolton, a fierce critic of Cuba who blamed the socialist government for propping up the troubled regime in Venezuela.
Don’t count on it, Trump tweeted today, saying:

In fact, my views on Venezuela, and especially Cuba, were far stronger than those of John Bolton. He was holding me back!

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, echoed that point, tweeting:
“Just spoke to @realDonaldTrump on #Venezuela. It’s true he disagreed with some of the views of previous advisor. But as he reminded me it’s actually the DIRECT OPPOSITE of what many claim or assume. If in fact the direction of policy changes, it won’t be to make it weaker.”
As national security advisor, Bolton helped tighten economic sanctions against Cuba and their allies Venezuela and Nicaragua. He told a Miami crowd in November:

In Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, we see the perils of poisonous ideologies left unchecked, and the dangers of domination and suppression.

But he predicted the leftist governments would eventually crumble.
Some of Bolton’s foes in Havana were delighted that he fell first, but few expect better U.S.-Cuba relations anytime soon because other hardliners remain in place in the Trump administration.
Some opposition leaders in Havana applaud Trump’s approach. Re-establishing diplomatic ties with Cuba in December 2014 “was like a green light that Obama gave the Cuban regime to act freely, but against the people and not on behalf of the people,” dissident leader Berta Soler said.
She urges the Trump administration to “suffocate” the socialist government “because as long as it has oxygen,” it will repress the Cuban people.
“You have to have a firm hand with the Cuban regime,” said Soler, head of Ladies in White, an opposition group based in Havana.

Berta Soler

Cuban diplomat Carlos Fernández de Cossío dismisses such talk. U.S. officials can’t accept that Cuba has a “right to self-determination.” They are “committed to punish Cuba… to damage our economy.”
Fernández de Cossío is director of U.S. affairs at Cuba’s Foreign Ministry. After the United States and Cuba renewed diplomatic relations, he said, “there was without a doubt a movement from both our governments toward a better understanding.”
Relations still weren’t “normal,” he said. The U.S. continued to occupy the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in eastern Cuba. The trade embargo remained in force. But, he said:

We were on a path toward a better understanding to deal with our differences in a civilized and respectable manner, and we were able to mutually work to establish the pillars of what could be a constructive relationship for the future.

That was important, the diplomat said, because it allowed many Americans to travel to and learn about Cuba for the first time.
Even so, U.S. trade sanctions continued to have “a huge negative impact on Cuba.” He said:

The impact of the economic blockade in Cuba, just in 2018, was around $4 billion.

Carlos Fernández de Cossío

The cornerstone of U.S. sanctions is the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996, also known as the Helms-Burton law.
Fernández de Cossío described it as a “colonial recipe” aimed at overthrowing the Cuban government and appointing a U.S. administrator “as if we were a defeated colonial territory in a colonial world.”
The American administrator would lead Cuba during a transition period that could last years, he said. Under Helms-Burton, Cuba would also have to return property nationalized after the 1959 revolution.
“This law establishes…a very detailed blueprint of what would be the future of Cuba once the constitutional government of Cuba is defeated,” said Fernández de Cossío, who has served as Cuban ambassador in Canada and South Africa.
His counterpart in Cuba is Mara Tekach, a career Foreign Service officer who heads the U.S. Embassy in Havana.
She declined an interview, but described her vision of Cuba in a June 27 reception commemorating Independence Day.
“The idea of a prosperous Cuba is not only a dream, there are clear ideas about how to make that happen,” Tekach told a crowd of Cubans and other guests. She said:

What would happen if the economic, political and cultural repression were to disappear? Free market principles have raised millions of people out of poverty. As diplomatic colleagues from former communist countries can attest, their nations are thriving because they opened up. Economies perform better when there is liberty and good governance, not repression.

She criticized Cuban authorities for human rights abuses, including the arbitrary arrest of dissidents.
“Freedom of movement does not exist in Cuba for people who openly express their dissent,” Tekach said.
She also denounced Cuba’s alliance with Venezuela.
“Why would a government associate itself with a system of governance that has caused so much misery and deprivation?” she asked. “The sooner Cuba’s advisory and military apparatus leaves Venezuela, the sooner Cuba can contribute to the better good in this region. In which case, we can all pull together, multilaterally, to advance our common aspiration of greater democracy, prosperity and peace.”
In April, Cuban officials denied that they had military troops in Venezuela.
Fernández de Cossío said the Cuban government’s main priority is “to strengthen socialism” and to make the country more prosperous and democratic “for the benefit of the population as a whole, not on greed, not on selfishness.”
The diplomat said the No. 1 obstacle in Cuba’s development “is the economic blockade applied by the U.S. government for the past 60 years.” He said “it would be naïve to think” the Trump administration is going to reverse course.
“So we need to work around the U.S. economic blockade. We are forced to be patient.”
And when U.S. officials are ready to talk, he said, Cuban officials will be waiting.
“We are ready to engage,” he said. “What we are not ready to do is to compromise the sovereignty of our nation, our right to self-determination.”

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4 thoughts on “Trump claims to be tougher on Cuba than hardline advisor”

  1. An excellent, well-balanced and informative article — just what we expect from Professor Eaton. The two post-Bolton tweets from Trump and Rubio are shameless and meant to appease only extreme right-wingers or cater to the financial and political beneficiaries of Republican capitulations to Little Havana. “I don’t know why Trump has such hate for Cuba.” That statement from 77-year-old Adelaide Borges, Mrs. Havana in Havana, can be answered in September-2019 the way it could have been answered in 1952 or 1959, I think. There are massive economic and political rewards within the bowels of the USA’s Cuban policies. Trump is willing to sacrifice 11 million Cubans on the island in the belief that Rubio and the other masters of Little Havana will deliver him Florida’s pivotal 29 Electoral Votes for his 2020 re-election. I’m a lifelong democracy-loving Republican, but not a right-wing thug. Especially after the advent of Little Havana’s CANF lobby in the 1980’s and Helms-Burton in the 1990’s, America unfortunately has been saddled with a money-crazed government-within-the-government, and one that seems to easily skirt normal democratic principles and safeguards. The aforementioned Trump and Rubio tweets affirm the dangerous aspects, in a basic two-party system, of the Republican Party being at the mercy of self-serving Cuban Counter Revolutionaries. The asinine Trump and Rubio tweets arrive in a week when Cuban President Diaz-Canel and some respected Cuban journalists, including a valuable meteorologist on the hurricane-prone island, had their accounts blocked by the capitulating Twitter bosses. Miami’s propaganda-fueled Radio-TV Marti venom; Little Havana’s dictations to the mainstream U. S. media; and Twitter’s vicious anti-Cuba/pro-Batistiano accounts, of course, are untouched. In the U. S., Little Havana wins all the Cuban battles, but it remains amazing, like at the Bay of Pigs way back in April-1961, that Little Havana can’t win the war. At age 77, perhaps Mrs. Havana remembers when Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Santo Trafficante Jr., and Fulgencio Batista ruled Cuba with the USA’s consent but, of course, Americans are not allowed to factor that into the U.S.-Cuban equation. I MEAN…uh, didn’t the Cuban Revolution overthrow a sweet Mother Teresa-like DEMOCRACY in Cuba way back on January 1, 1959????????

  2. As long as Cuba policy remains an internal or domestic politico-electoral issue in the US, as it has been for the past half century or so, there is little chance that we’ll ever get rid of the leeches (politicians, lobbyists, and self-proclaimed “leaders” of the Cuban exiles in South Florida) who live off anti-Cuba hostility.

    Perhaps if we could convince the architects of the new Immigration policies aimed at making America great again that the number of foreigners from the same national origin in any given state of our Union should be limited to a certain number, Florida may loose the taint of being the only state with its own foreign policy agenda. Because it is just a matter of numbers, and of the concentration of those numbers in a single geographical area. Numbers give courage and a louder voice to the bullies who have run our Cuban (and, consequently, Hemispheric) policy for years. There are many Cubans living abroad, and many have issues with the government that has run the island for over sixty years now. But nowhere else do those Cubans show the level of resentment, childishness, and intransigence that Cubans (or Cuban-Americans) show in South Florida, nor do they call the shots for the governments of the countries where they have settled when it comes to defining those countries national interests and their foreign policy.

    I am only half kidding when I call for this re-arranging of our Immigration rules. On the one hand our tremendous POTUS, Miller, Cuccinelli, et al, seem to feel free to run rough-shod over all legal and constitutional concerns -with the complicity of the SCOTUS and the DOJ- when it comes to redefining asylum and other human rights of foreigners who seek American protection; so it may seem easy for them to simply deport and redistribute the South Florida Cuban population among the 49 other states. On the other hand, they will need an incentive to do so, and in our decadent political system that incentive is usually money, or the fear of losing the Florida votes on account of a shift in the direction South Floridians vote, a shift caused by the moronic policy that keeps American hostility towards Cuba alive. As the fat lazy guy in the White House loves to say, we’ll see what happens…

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