Saturday, September 17, 2016

Trump Flip Flops on Cuba, Cuban Reaction Update

Trump, Pence seek Cuban American vote, vow to repeal Obama's Cuba deal
Joseph Weber

By Joseph Weber  Published November 05, 2016

Trump and Pence outline their plans for America

Donald Trump and GOP running-mate Mike Pence this weekend made final-hour pitches in Florida to critical Cuban-American voters, vowing if elected to repeal Democratic President Obama’s executive order that removed Cuba from the federal government’s list of state sponsor terrorism.

Cubans who fled Cuba for southern Florida and other parts of the United States in the 1980s to escape the communist Castro regime have been solid Republican supporters since the era of President Reagan and his fight to end communism around the world.

But in the past several decades, the children and grandchildren of that first wave of Cuban exiles, known as Cuban-Americans, have settled in many U.S. cities. And like their fellow urban residents, they have voted more for Democrats.

“Big story, Cubans endorsed me,” Trump said Saturday in Tampa, referring to an endorsement recently in Miami from the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association, a group of retired U.S. military members that in 1961 launched a failed attack on the Cuban bay.

Trump also stopped the rally to hold up a sign that read: “Cuban Women for Trump” and said, “I love all of these signs.”

Trump, the 2016 GOP presidential nominee, and Hillary Clinton, his Democratic rival, are in a tight race in Florida and in the handful of other battleground states that on Tuesday will decide their White House contest.

Clinton and other Democrats have for decades held the minority vote, largely black and Hispanic residents. But Trump, a first-time candidate, like other Republican presidential nominees before him, has tried desperately to appeal to both voting blocs in an effort to upset Clinton, who has led from the start of the race.

A new Fox News national poll shows Clinton leading Trump by 2 percentage points, 45-to-43 percent.

Obama this spring used his Executive Office powers to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism in an attempt to “normalize relations” with Cuba, which means opening up more trade and tourism between the countries to put an end to their Cold War-era standoff.

However, Republican leaders largely disagreed with the president’s move, particularly over continuing human rights violations, but failed to block it.

Early voting so far in the Clinton-Trump race among Hispanics, a voting bloc in which Cuban-Americans are typically included, suggests strong support for Clinton. However, early voting among blacks appears significantly lower for Clinton, compared to the historical levels for Obama, the county’s first African-American president.

Clinton, in her effort to win over the Hispanic vote in Florida, Nevada and even Republican-leaning Arizona, has tried to portray Trump as opposed to almost all immigrants.

“If you are Latino, you know what life would be like because we’d have a president who doesn’t see you as American,” Clinton said Thursday in Las Vegas.

On Friday, Pence said Miami that Obama -- “with Clinton’s support” -- re-opened the U.S. embassy in Havana and suggested that the president, if possible, would have lifted the entire trade embargo on Cuba.

“Well let me make you a promise: When Donald Trump is president of the United States, we will repeal Obama’s executive orders on Cuba,” Pence said. 

“We will support continuing the embargo until real political and religious freedoms are a reality for all the people of Cuba. Donald Trump will stand with freedom-loving Cubans in the fight against Communist oppression.”

Trump threatens to reverse diplomatic relations with Cuba

By David Wright, CNN

Updated 1:36 PM ET, Mon October 24, 2016 

(CNN)Donald Trump criticized the Obama administration's move to normalize relations with Cuba as a "very weak agreement," though he said some sort of a deal is "fine," in an interview with a local CBS station in Miami over the weekend.

The Republican nominee also said he would do "whatever you have to do to get a strong agreement," even if that meant breaking off the recently-resumed diplomatic relations.

"I just want to press -- would you break off diplomatic relations, though, on day one?" CBS4's Jim Defede asked Trump. 

"I would do whatever you have to do to get a strong agreement. And people want an agreement, I like the idea of an agreement, but it has to be a real agreement. So if you call that for negotiation purposes, whatever you have to do to make a great deal for the people of Cuba," Trump said. 

"Look, Cuba has to treat us fairly and it has to treat the people of Cuba fairly, and the people living here that were from Cuba or their families were from Cuba," he argued, saying the deal President Barack Obama "signed is a very weak agreement. We get nothing. The people of Cuba get nothing, and I would do whatever is necessary to get a good agreement. An agreement is fine."

Trump also responded to charges leveled in a Newsweek report from earlier this year, which alleged that he violated the US-Cuban embargo in 1998 by sending associates to explore business opportunities on the island. Further reporting from Bloomberg purported to show that additional Trump associates went in 2012 and 2013 to look at potential opportunities for a golf resort. 

The Republican nominee appeared to confirm parts of the reporting, saying that he would "have to find out" if they had in fact traveled to Cuba in violation of the embargo, while acknowledging that "they had some meetings." 

"I don't know exactly where they were. I can tell you that Cuba wants to, you know, really negotiate with us. They've said, 'We want to negotiate.' They want to make some kind of a deal. I've said, I don't want to make any deals unless we know we have a deal with Cuba. I think it's appropriate," he said.

"But you think they did, in fact, go to Cuba?" Defede asked.

"Well, know that Cuba wants us to go there. I'm not interested in going," Trump replied.
Defede countered, "No, I meant as emissaries -- did those individuals travel there to have those discussions?"

"I would have to find out," Trump said. "I know they had some meetings, but I would have to find out."

Under the five-decades-old US-Cuban trade embargo -- which can only be lifted by Congress -- US citizens are banned from spending any funds on the island. But while the US and Cuba restored relations in July of last year, and Obama has eased some sanctions to allow more US travel and commerce with Cuba, the embargo remains in place. 

At a rally in Miami earlier in September, Trump had also blasted the Cuba policy changes, an apparent shift from past statements in which he supported the reopening of diplomatic relations after more than 50 years.
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Donald Trump threatens to end U.S.-Cuba relations without more Cuban freedoms

By Eric DuVall | Sept. 17, 2016

MIAMI, Sept. 17 (UPI) -- Donald Trump at a rally in Miami on Friday night said he would reverse President Barack Obama's reopening of diplomatic ties with Cuba if the island nation did not meet his demands for a more open society.

Trump told about 2,500 supporters he would require the Cuban government to allow freedom of speech and religion, and for them to free political prisoners, or he would reverse Obama executive orders that re-established diplomatic ties after a 50-year embargo.

The announcement by Trump is a change from his position on the Cuba issue during the Florida primary earlier this year, when he said Obama's new policy was "fine," though he thought the United States could have made a stronger deal with the Cubans.

Now, Trump said he will undo Obama's changes, including opening a U.S. embassy in Cuba and normalizing travel between the two nations.

"All of the concessions Barack Obama has granted the Castro regime were done through executive order -- which means the next president can reverse them. And that I will do unless the Castro regime meets our demands. Not my demands -- our demands," Trump said. "Those demands will include religious and political freedom for the Cuban people, and the freeing of political prisoners."

The Miami Herald conducted a poll of Cuban-Americans in Miami-Dade and found 56 percent support the Obama administration's Cuba shift.

See also

Trump's new Cuba position provokes anxiety on the island

Published September 21, 2016 

HAVANA –  Donald Trump's threat to undo President Barack Obama's detente with Cuba unless President Raul Castro abides by Trump's list of demands is provoking widespread anxiety among ordinary Cubans, who were paying little attention to the U.S. presidential campaign until now.

Trump had been generally supportive of Obama's reestablishment of diplomatic ties and normalization of relations, saying he thought detente was "fine" although he would have cut a better deal.

Then, in Miami on Friday, the Republican nominee said he would reverse Obama's series of executive orders unless Castro meets demands including "religious and political freedom for the Cuban people and the freeing of political prisoners." Castro said in a speech the following day that Cuba "will not renounce a single one of its principles," reiterating a longstanding rejection of any U.S. pressure.

While Hillary Clinton maintains an electoral college advantage, Cubans are suddenly envisioning the possibility of a U.S. president who would undo measures popular among virtually everyone on the island, from hard-line communists to advocates of greater freedom and democracy.

"I don't think he'd make such a drastic decision. Or would he?" Bernardo Toledo, a 72-year-old retired state worker, asked nervously. "It would be disgraceful."

While the detente announced on Dec. 17, 2014 has had limited direct impact on most ordinary Cubans, it has created feelings of optimism about a future of civil relations with Cuba's giant neighbor to the north. An Univision/Washington Post poll of 1,200 Cubans taken in March, 2015 found that 97 percent supported detente.

For most ordinary people in a country that's had only two leaders over nearly six decades, and where the president's word is law, Trump's unexpected reversal was a reminder that a single election might wipe away those closer ties.

"All we want is to be left in peace. Isn't he thinking about our families?" complained pharmacist Heidi Picot. "How could he do something like this, make everybody worried?"

Still, some Cuban experts on relations with the U.S. saw the candidate as merely pandering to anti-Castro Cuban-Americans in South Florida, and don't believe a President Trump would follow through with his campaign pledge. Detente is increasingly popular among Cuban-Americans and South Florida pollsters say Trump is not ahead with them by the margins managed by previous Republicans who've won Florida.

Hillary Clinton has declared her support for continuing Obama's policy, which has reopened the U.S. Embassy, re-established direct flights and removed Cuba from a list of state terror sponsors. It also has done away with most limits on cash remittances from the U.S and increased cooperation on topics ranging from law enforcement to public health.

"I don't think it will be very easy for Trump to reverse some things," former diplomat Carlos Alzugary said. "Break diplomatic relations? Put Cuba back on the list of terrorist states? Those things are almost impossible."

Cuba's state media had been virtually silent on the U.S. presidential campaign, seemingly uncertain of how to square the polarizing and highly competitive race with the oft-repeated Cuban assertion that U.S. democracy offers false choices between nearly identical corporate pawns.

Trump's statement generated an unusual amount of official coverage over the weekend. State radio stations and other government-run media accused the Republican of pandering to Cuban-Americans in an attempt to win Florida's electoral votes.

A Trump reversal would fit a historical pattern, started under Jimmy Carter, in which Democratic presidents build ties to Cuba and their Republican successors largely undo them.

Obama has worked hard to make the opening irreversible by building popular and corporate support at home. In Cuba, the government has welcomed some new ties, like scientific cooperation and commercial flights. It has stalled on others, like ferries from Florida. Some observers believe that's because Castro's government fears building ties that a hostile future U.S. administration could use in the interests of regime change.

The Cuban government has given no indication of whether Trump's statement will give new impetus to U.S.-Cuba normalization, or cause the process to stall in what could be its last three months.
Meanwhile, Cubans remain hopeful, but increasingly worried.

"It's a way to move the economy forward, to diversify," said Yenitsia Arango, a 34-year-old nurse. "The door's been opened to better relations and it's not a good idea to go in reverse."

_____ Correspondent Michael Weissenstein contributed to this report.
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Republican Platform on Cuba

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