Obama opened the U.S. up to Cuba, and Trump may be about to close it again
WASHINGTON, June 9 (Reuters) – President Donald Trump is expected to visit Miami as early as next Friday to announce a new Cuba policy that could tighten rules on trade and travel, rolling back parts of former President Barack Obama’s opening to the island, according to a U.S. official and people familiar with the matter.
Trump’s aides were nearing completion of a comprehensive review of relations with Cuba and are expected to send recommendations to his national security team and then to the president in coming days, a U.S. official said.
Plans are in the works for Trump to roll out his new approach next Friday in a speech in Miami, fulfilling a campaign pledge. But a delay is still possible if it takes longer to make a final decision, according to two people familiar with the discussions.
While specific changes have not yet been finalized, the sources say Trump is likely to unveil a partial rather than complete rollback of Obama’s actions, which included restoration of relations and reopening of embassies after a diplomatic breakthrough in 2014 with America’s former Cold War foe.
Earlier on Friday, a group of Republican lawmakers sent a letter to Trump urging him not to rescind Obama’s measures, which included significant easing of trade, travel and investment rules with the communist-ruled island.
With the Cuba review approaching its final stages, both sides of the issue have recently stepped up lobbying to sway Trump’s decision on how far to go.
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In the letter, seven of Trump’s fellow Republicans expressed “deep concern” that he is considering rescinding Obama’s policies and said that such a move would “incentivize Cuba to once again become dependent on countries like Russia and China.”
The warning reflected growing unease on Capitol Hill over returning to a more contentious approach to Cuba, even within a Republican Party that has traditionally hewed to a harder line against Havana.
Policy deliberations still under way
Senior officials at the National Security Council met on Friday to begin finalizing a list of recommendations, the sources said.
Trump’s changes are expected to stop short of breaking diplomatic relations restored two years ago after more than five decades of hostility, administration officials say.
Among the options under consideration are banning U.S. companies from doing business with Cuban enterprises tied to the military and tightening rules on Americans traveling there, according to people familiar with the discussions.
Divisions remain within the Trump administration, especially given that rapprochement with Cuba has created opportunities for American companies.
Some aides have argued that Trump, a former real estate magnate who won the presidency promising to unleash U.S. business and create jobs, would have a hard time defending any moves that close off the Cuban market.
The U.S. airline and travel industries have made clear they do not want to see reinstatement of Cuba restrictions.
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But Trump has come under heavy pressure from Cuban-American lawmakers, including Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, to roll back Obama’s rapprochement.
Trump threatened shortly after his election in November to “terminate” Obama’s approach unless Cuba made significant concessions, something it is unlikely to do.
Obama implemented his normalization measures through executive actions, and Trump has the power to undo much of it.
© 2017 Reuters