Trump’s possible Cuba policy doesn’t look good

Donald Trump wants to hire a known racist to head the attorney general’s office; a climate change denier to head the Environmental Protection Agency; a surgeon to head housing; a woman who despises public education to head the Department of Education; a billionaire who made his money by exploiting workers to head the Department of Labor; a former Goldman Sachs tycoon to clean up the mess created by Wall Street; and a governor with zero knowledge of international affairs to represent us at the United Nations. And we expect him to do any better when it comes to Cuba?

Cuban Americans on his transition team all have ties to the “Industry of Evil” or “La Industria del Mal”, as my now departed friend Francisco Aruca used to call them. When referring to them, I suggest we remove the Cuban from the Cuban American.

The fact is that Cuba watchers have little idea of what will happen when President-elect Donald Trump is inaugurated on January 20, 2017. I, for one, shudder to think of the possibilities. We continue to see the naming of hardliners to the Trump transition team. And lest we forget, Trump himself warned Cubans in Miami of what he would do.

“All the concessions that Barack Obama has granted to the Castro regime were done through executive order, which means the next president can reverse them,” Trump told an enthusiastic crowd at the James L. Knight Center before his election in September. “And that, I will do, unless the Castro regime meets our demands. Not my demands. Our demands.

“Those demands are religious and political freedom for the Cuban people. And the freeing of political prisoners,” Trump said.

With his choice of Cuban Americans to his transition team, it seems Trump has still not learned that Cubans do not like to be told what they have to do. And, Mr. Trump, they don’t react well to threats.

When Trump named Mauricio Claver-Carone to his transition team I reacted in writing. Surely it was not a happy choice for persons interested in seeing a continuation of positive trends with the Cuba-U.S. relationship mired in shit for more than half a century. But I added that it might just be a hollow move to appease “those hard-right Cubans who defended, helped financially and ultimately voted for Donald Trump.”

My optimism may have been optimistic. Why so many Cuban-Americans in his transition group? And all apparently from  the same-striped team… and in important positions.

He first named Cuban American Carlos E. Diáz-Rosillo, a Harvard professor and lecturer, who now serves as Trump’s ‘Executive Authority Adviser’ for the ‘Policy Implementation’ team. OK…

It was Claver-Carone, the second Cuban-American named, who struck a cord. One that screamed: Beware!

He worked in the Treasury Department in 2003 under President George W. Bush. A year later, he was hired by two Miami-based, leading anti-Cubans, Remedios Diaz-Oliver and Gus Machado, to lead their US-Cuba Democracy PAC. Claver-Carone was also named executive director of the private foundation Cuba Democracy Advocates. His benefactors, Machado, an auto sales magnate, and Diaz-Oliver, who pleaded guilty in the late 1990s to fraud and tax evasion, are prime examples of Miami’s “Evil Industry.”

Soon thereafter Claver-Carone began publishing an anti-Cuba blog months before Obama became president. It focuses on Cuba, but extends its reach to other countries like Iran and Venezuela. Not a positive word has he ever written about Cuba, a place he has never set foot in. Oftentimes his messages are cloaked in hearsay and lies.

Claver-Carone’s appointment on the transition team to the U.S. Treasury Department, which oversees financial sanctions enforcement and regulates travel to Cuba, can only be described as bad news.

Also named to the transition team is Dr. Yleem Poblete, a former senior adviser to Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and a hardliner on Cuba and Iran. She is considered an expert on foreign policy and national security, and has worked for nearly two decades on the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee.

The most recent appointment was attorney John Barsa, born in Miami and also of Cuban descent, and named to the Department of Homeland Security. Barsa once served as an assistant to Lincoln Diaz-Balart in the U.S. Congress. He has worked with Secretaries Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff at Homeland Security.

What can we expect?

Based on the aforementioned folks, and Trump’s hardline attitude on Cuba right before the election, it doesn’t look pretty. And as may happen with matters involving our environment, health care, issues of rights for all citizens, etc., the Cuba issue, which took giant steps forward under Obama, may see itself backtracking under a President Trump.

In other words, not very good news.

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