President Donald Trump on Friday announced a rollback of his predecessor’s policy of warming relations Cuba, declaring before a raucous Miami crowd that “our policy will seek a much better deal for the Cuban people and for the United States of America.”
The shift in U.S. policy marks a campaign promise kept for the president, who courted the traditionally-conservative Cuban vote in Florida with a promise to return to the hardline stance against the Castro regime favored by U.S. presidents since John F. Kennedy.
“It’s hard to think of a policy that makes less sense than the prior administration’s terrible and misguided deal with the Castro regime,” Trump said. “The outcome of the last administration’s executive action has been only more repression and a move to crush the peaceful democratic movement. Therefore, effective immediately, I am canceling the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba.”
Since former President Barack Obama’s move to normalize relations with Cuba, the U.S. has opened an embassy in Havana and American tourists, long banned from visiting except under specific circumstances, have begun to flood in. The shift in relations was widely criticized by opponents of the Castro regime, including prominent politicians of Cuban descent from both parties, concerned that the flood of U.S. dollars would only serve to enrich Cuba’s repressive government.
Under new regulations ushered in by Trump on Friday, the Treasury Department will more thoroughly audit Americans traveling to Cuba to ensure they are complying with U.S. regulations. Americans visiting Cuba will be prohibited from engaging in financial transactions with any entity owned by the Cuban military, which controls the majority of the tourism industry.
The U.S. embassy in Havana and Cuban embassy in Washington will remain open under the new regulations.
Trump began his speech by thanking several Florida politicians, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) and Gov. Rick Scott, all three of whom spoke before the president. In an apparent aside, Trump urged Scott to run for Senate against Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), up for reelection in 2018.
He also thanked Cuban exiles and dissidents, naming some specifically who had been blocked from leaving Cuba to attend the event and some who were in the room. He blamed the Castro regime for supporting human trafficking, taking and holding political prisoners and shielding hijackers and terrorists.
“This is the simple truth of the Castro regime. My administration will not hide from it, excuse it or glamorize it,” he said. “And we will never, ever be blind to it. We know what’s going on. And we remember what happened.”