Cuban government will have to change, Trump aides say
WASHINGTON - — Top aides to United States President-elect Donald Trump say it won’t be business as usual in Cuba, and Havana must move towards enacting greater freedoms for its people if it wants to keep the improved relations initiated by President Barack Obama.
The comments were made by Trump advisers Reince Priebus and Kellyanne Conway following the death of Cuba’s revolutionary leader Fidel Castro last Friday night.
Castro’s younger brother Raul took over the reins of power 10 years ago and subsequently negotiated with President Obama to restore diplomatic relations. But according to Priebus, the president-elect’s incoming chief of staff, Trump would reverse Obama’s opening to Cuba unless there was “some movement” from Havana.
Priebus told Fox News Sunday: “Repression, open markets, freedom of religion, political prisoners — these things need to change in order to have open and free relationships, and that’s what President-elect Trump believes, and that’s where he’s going to head.”
Conway echoed his remarks, adding that any diplomatic deal will have to benefit US workers.
She told ABC’s This Week: “To the extent that President Trump can open up new conversations with Cuba, it would have to be a very different Cuba. He wants to make sure that when the United States of America, when he’s president, engages in any type of diplomatic relations or trade agreements … that we as America are being protected and we as America are getting something in return.”
While stating that nothing had been decided on Cuba, she noted that the US was allowing commercial aircraft to do business with a repressive Cuban government and Cuban military.
She added that the “first order of business” was to rally the international community around trying to free political prisoners.
President Obama opened some US investment and travel to Cuba through executive order, but Republican lawmakers saw to it that many restrictions in the trade embargo stayed put.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, whose parents were born in Cuba, told CNN’s State of the Union that he was heartened by Trump’s hard-line rhetoric on Cuba. He said the US focus must be its own security and other interests and encouraging a Cuban democracy.
“We should examine our policy toward Cuba through those lenses,” he said. “And if there’s a policy that helps that, it remains in place. And if it’s a policy that doesn’t, it’s removed.”
During the campaign, Trump vowed to reverse “concessions” made to Havana by Obama unless the Castro government met his demands.