Thursday, November 24, 2016

Fathom Will End in June, Carnival Replacement Planned

Carnival’s Adonia, the ship that took Americans to Cuba, will leave the island in June


When Carnival Corp’s 704-passenger Adonia entered Havana Harbor on May 2, spectators waved Cuban and American flags in a salute to history. The ship’s cruise line, Fathom, was the first to take U.S. passengers across the Florida Straits in half a century.

Come June, Cubans will see that ship enter port for the last time.

Carnival Corp. said Wednesday that the Adonia, a former P&O Cruises ship, will return to its parent line in the United Kingdom next summer. By then, the Doral-based cruise giant expects to be taking Americans to Caribbean island on another of its 10 cruise lines — although Cuba hasn’t signed on the dotted line yet, said Carnival Corp. spokesman Roger Frizzell.

“We feel comfortable that we will be sailing to Cuba on a different line,” Frizzell said.

The Fathom brand will offer social impact shore excursions on Carnival Corp. sailings.

Currently, Fathom has only a single ship that alternates sailings between Cuba and the Dominican Republic on “voluntourism” trips. It is the only line approved for itineraries between Miami and Cuba.

Earlier this month, Fathom announced that its volunteering excursions, which include teaching English and pouring concrete in local homes, will be available on six other lines across its fleet: AIDA Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line, Costa Cruises, Fathom, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and P&O Cruises (UK).

“Fathom continues to receive some of the highest ratings in the company based on guest surveys, and we hope to expand the Fathom experience to other markets in the future,” Frizzell said.

The cruise line got mixed reviews when it started sailing to Cuba and the Dominican Republic this summer. While the pent-up demand from American travelers to visit Cuba translated into robust bookings, sailings to the Dominican Republic were less popular despite cruise fares that were less than one-third the price that of the Cuba voyages.

Two voyages to the Dominican Republic in October and November were replaced with Cuba sailings due to demand, the company said in September.

“We are committed to Cuba for the long term, especially based on the success we’ve had in Cuba with Fathom,” Frizzell said.

But the journey to Cuba wasn’t easy. Initially, the cruise line declined to sell passage to island-born Cuban Americans in accordance with Cuban regulations that prohibited them from returning by sea. Protests and several lawsuits followed, and the line said it would not launch its itineraries until the prohibition was lifted.

Less than two weeks before the ship was scheduled to leave PortMiami for a seven-day Havana-Cienfuegos-Santiago de Cuba voyage, the Cuban government reversed its decades-old policy, allowing Cubans to join in on the inaugural voyage.

Fathom has since tweaked its offerings, adding more people-to-people opportunities in Cuba and more island flavor to its ship, contracting Cuban bands and adding Old Havana local design store Clandestina to its roster of on-board shops.

Carnival Corp. was the first American cruise company to gain the coveted approval from the Cuban government to sail to the island after President Barrack Obama announced a more open approach to its former Cold War enemy in December 2014.

Other lines, including Miami-based giants Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean Cruises, have also applied to sail from the U.S. to the island but have not yet been approved.

On a media preview sailing of Royal Caribbean International’s Harmony of the Seas early this month, the line’s president and CEO, Michael Bayley, said everything was ready for Cuba. Its 2,020-passenger Empress of the Seas was pulled from sister brand Pullmantur Cruises to be retrofitted for Cuba voyages.

But the island hasn’t called yet.

“We’ve been waiting for a long time and we’ll keep waiting,” Bayley said.

Read more here:

Trump adds Cuba embargo supporter to transition team


President-elect Donald Trump Monday named Mauricio Claver-Carone, executive director of the most active pro-Cuba embargo group in Washington, to his transition team.

Claver-Carone has been one of the harshest critics of President Barack Obama's efforts since December of 2014 to improve relations with Cuba, and his appointment to the Trump team could signal a reversal of some of those changes.

He is executive director of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy Political Action Committee (USCD PAC) as well as Cuba Democracy Advocates, a non-profit that describes itself as “a non-partisan organization dedicated to the promotion of a transition in Cuba towards human rights, democracy and the rule of law.”


The Washington Examiner reported that Claver-Carone was named to the transition team for the U.S. Department of the Treasury, where he was an attorney-adviser until November of 2003.

Trump said during the campaign that he would have negotiated a better deal with Cuba than Obama. Critics of Obama's changes have complained that Cuba was not required to improve its human rights record or further open its economy.

Claver-Carone's appointment to the transition team “is a clear signal … that the president-elect will carry out the promise he made to the Cuban American community,” former U.S. ambassador to Venezuela Otto Reich told the Nuevo Herald.

Reich added that the appointment does not automatically mean Claver-Carone will get a top job in the new administration, although Reich predicted that he would accept it if offered. “In my opinion, not many other people know as much about Obama's mistakes on Cuba policy, and how to change them, as Mauricio,” he said.

In an opinion column published last week in The Miami Herald, Claver-Carone argued that Obama's new policies on Cuba “made a bad situation worse.” U.S. policy on the island “has gone from what it initially portrayed as a noble purpose to pure sycophancy in pursuit of 'historic firsts,' he wrote.

Claver-Carone comments regularly on Cuba issues on his blog, Capitol Hill Cubans, and has hosted a radio program on U.S. foreign policy. A lawyer, he has taught law at the George Washington and Catholic Universities. He testified before a Congressional committee in March about Obama's Cuba policies.

Claver-Carone has been especially critical of the Obama administration's approval of several U.S. companies to do business with companies owned by the Cuban government and its military — as in the case of Starwood hotels. He also has attacked the lack of compensation for properties confiscated from U.S. citizens in the 1960s.

His appointment was criticized by Ric Herrero, director of CubaNow, an organization that pushes for warmer U.S. relations with Havana.

Herrero said he lamented the selection of a man “who has dedicated his long career as a lobbyist in our capital to dividing Cuban families and defending the interests of those politicians who have benefited from the failed embargo policy.”

The USCD PAC spent more $600,000 in the most recent elections, according to Federal Electoral Commission records. It made significant donations to the campaigns of Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Carlos Curbelo, as well as Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz – all critics of the Obama shifts on Cuba.

Claver-Carone did not immediately reply to requests for comments for this story.

Nora Gámez Torres: @ngameztorres

Read more here:

My comment to Miami Herald:

Who was responsible for the inclusion of Mr. Claver-Carone in the Transition Landing Team with the Treasury Department?
 That seems to prejudge how the President-elect will sort out his contradictory statements and actions on Cuba, notably not on the list he just released of targets for immediate action after inauguration. In addition, the Vice President elect barred lobbyists from participation in the transition.  Mauricio is a registered lobbyist. John McAuliffFund for Reconciliation and Development

President Obama Predicts No Change on Cuba

LIMA, Peru — President Obama said here on Saturday that, while President-elect Donald J. Trump was unlikely to reverse the warming of ties with Cuba, he would almost certainly re-examine trade deals in Latin America. 

“But once they look at how it’s working, I think they’ll actually determine that it’s working for both the United States and our partners,” Mr. Obama said.

“The friendships we’ve established with countries like Peru, the reopening of diplomatic relations with Cuba, investments we’re making in trade, environmental policies and so forth — all those things I expect to continue,” he added.

Mr. Trump has offered contradictory views on Cuban relations. Early in his campaign, Mr. Trump claimed to support restoring ties, but he said more recently in Miami that Mr. Obama should have gotten a better deal.

Transcript from the White House

During my presidency, the United States recommitted itself to the region, in partnership with your countries, based on mutual interests and mutual respect.  We increased trade.  We stood up for democracy and human rights, fought against corruption and organized crime.  We’ve promoted clean energy.   We’ve led the global fight against climate change.  We opened a new relationship with Cuba.  

I strongly believe that this work has to be done with governments, but it's even more important that it's done by people -- because government is important, but it can't solve every problem.  So we have to work together at a people-to-people level -- teachers, and doctors, and students, and entrepreneurs, and religious leaders -- all trying to find ways in which we can promote those values of dignity and humanity and respect that so often are threatened....

With respect to Latin America, I don't anticipate major changes in policy from the new administration.  I think the work that we've done has been successful in establishing the strongest relationships between the United States and Latin America in modern history.  The friendships that we've established with countries like Peru, the reopening of diplomatic relations with Cuba, the investments we're making in trade, in environmental policy, and so forth -- all those things I expect to continue. ...

So you mentioned Cuba, for example, where your father fled.  He left in part because they didn’t feel that there was enough opportunity there.  Part of the reason I said let's reopen our diplomatic relations with Cuba is to see if you can start encouraging greater opportunity and freedom in Cuba.  Because if you have people who have been able to leave Cuba and do really well in the United States, that means they have enough talent that they should be able to do really well by staying at home in Cuba.

Will Trump Stop America's Reset with Cuba?

Street scene in Havana. Flickr/Creative Commons/Bryan Ledgard

This will be the first test of a man who touted his deal-making skills.

In 2014–16, U.S.-Cuban relations witnessed a considerable thaw. Both countries moved to normalize relations long frozen by Cold War considerations, a development that culminated in President Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba in 2015, the first time a president visited the island since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. And U.S. companies, long excluded from one of the Caribbean’s largest markets of eight million people, have rushed in—multiple commercial airlines are flying planes to Cuba, U.S. telecom companies have signed roaming agreements with the island state, Marriott has commenced a joint venture to manage a number of Cuban hotels, the Caribbean island has become Airbnb’s fastest-growing market and a cruise line has started to sail to Cuban ports. In addition, other U.S. companies are seeking to develop business relations in Cuba. But all of this could change when the Trump administration comes to office in January 2017.
It is early in deciding what is next in U.S.-Cuban relations, considering that President-elect Trump has yet to name key officials for his administration. However, he did state that “concessions” the Obama administration made to the Caribbean country can be easily reversed (as many of them were done by executive order) and that he will unwind them unless U.S. demands are met. Along these lines, he stated, “Those demands will include religious and political freedom for the Cuban people and the freeing of political prisoners.”
Cuba is the only full-fledged dictatorship left in Latin America. Although Venezuela and Nicaragua are dominated by left-wing caudillos, there is still some façade of democratic form; Cuba is controlled by the Castro family and the Cuban Communist Party. Political freedoms are limited, competitive national elections are not held and there are political prisoners. Moreover, the regime monopolizes all forces of coercion—the military has a history of being loyal to Raúl Castro, who has led it for decades and is now the Caribbean country’s líder máximo.
For a long time, the Cuban American community’s views on its homeland were shaped by exile, the loss of property and the ruthless nature of the Castro regime toward any opposition. Indeed, those who left the island in the 1960s are staunchly anti-Castro, want no deal with the Castro regime ever and have voted on a regular basis in U.S. elections (98 percent of the first wave are U.S. citizens and 97 percent are registered to vote). Later waves are less anti-Castro, care about other issues beyond Cuba, and are fewer in terms of U.S. citizenship and voter registration (at 53 percent and 43 percent respectively, for those in 1994–2016 period).
Obama’s push to normalize relations with Cuba did receive a positive response among the Cuban American community. According to a Florida International University poll, 63 percent of respondents oppose the continuation of the U.S. embargo and “most respondents favor expanding economic relations between companies and the island.” That 63 percent was no doubt accurate, but it did not match up to the breakdown in voter participation in November.
The Cuban vote (or at least a significant part of it) was important in the Trump victory in Florida, which accounted for twenty-nine Electoral College votes. A New York Times–Siena poll days before the election indicated that support for Trump went from 33 percent in September to 52 percent. This has left the president-elect in the position of having elevated expectations to take a tougher stance on Cuba. This could be done by downgrading the U.S. embassy in Havana to a U.S. Interests Section again, reduce travel to the island for U.S. citizens, penalize companies doing business with Cuba and tightening immigration from the Caribbean country to the United States. He could also reimpose limits on the import of cigars and rum and promise to maintain (or possibly tighten) the trade embargo for the foreseeable future.
Pressure on Trump from the strongly anti-Castro part of the U.S. Cuban community is not likely to go away. Indeed, Mauricio Claver-Carone, the editor of Capitol Hill Cubans and a pro-embargo advocate, stated during the campaign: “Candidates should stop taking advice from a handful of greedy businessmen who are clueless as regards the real pulse of the Cuban-American community.” Moreover, Trump’s Cuban American backers intend to hold him to his “commitment to reverse Obama’s executive orders.”
Although the potential for a policy reversal is possible, such a change in direction will not be easy. The “handful of greedy businessmen” employ large numbers of U.S. citizens (some of whom voted for Trump), there would be costs borne by U.S. companies if sanctions are fully reimposed which would give birth to litigation against the government, and farmers in the Midwest want to sell their products to Cuba and are seeking to have a financing prohibition removed. Moreover, Trump during the campaign did acknowledge that fifty years of the same policy was enough, especially since it failed to remove the Castro brothers from power.
There is another dimension of Trump’s relationship with Cuba. According to Bloomberg Businessweek magazine, Trump executives have been considering the Caribbean country for a number of years. Trump executives have visited Cuba in 2012 and 2013, while his company’s representatives were there as recently as 2015, apparently looking at golf-related opportunities.
What to do about Cuba will be one of the more pressing decisions for the incoming Trump administration. If Trump the pragmatist and businessman moves into the White House, new negotiations might be able to make further adjustments, with the Castro brothers making some changes—don’t look for anything major. At the same time, Cuba’s economy is in poor shape, electricity has been sporadic and the country’s main economic supporter, oil-dependent Venezuela, is in its own very deep economic and political crisis. There is clearly pressure on the Cuban side to keep the process moving forward.
If the more right-wing Trump moves into the White House in January, U.S.-Cuban relations run the risk of taking a major step backwards as a new raft of political demands are made. At the same time, a hard line on Cuba could be troublesome for Trump, from the perspective that the non–Cuban American parts of his base in the Midwest and corporate America are likely to become alienated, a move that could come to hurt him in terms of litigation, bad press and withdrawal of support for the 2018 midterm elections.
U.S. Cuban policy has always been a challenge for Washington. Although Cuba does not carry the same weight on the diplomatic front as China, Russia or the Middle East, it remains a core foreign policy issue in the United States, especially considering the importance of Florida in presidential elections. How Trump handles dealing with the Castro regime will be closely watched, both at home and in Latin America. There will be very little to gain on the diplomatic front in the Caribbean and Latin America by killing off the push toward normalization between the United States and Cuba. Indeed, it could be one more item to complicate issues with Latin America.
The trick for Trump will be to get some concessions out of the Cuban government to open on the political front—which will be difficult considering the Castro brothers’ aversion to democracy—while maintaining a gradual opening of the country to U.S. business and tourists as well as placating a majority of Cuban Americans. This will be a real test for the man who has touted his art of the deal and likely run his policies on a transactional basis. Let the negotiations begin.
Scott B. MacDonald is Chief Economist for Smith’s Research and Gradings.
Image: Street scene in Havana. Flickr/Creative Commons/Bryan Ledgard

U.S. businesses to pressure Trump to keep ties to Cuba

 Alan Gomez , USA TODAY 4:12 p.m. EST November 20, 2016
Trump Cuba story

MIAMI — A powerful coalition of U.S. companies is preparing to appeal to President-elect Donald Trump's business instincts and drop his vow to reverse one of President Obama's signature achievements: renewed relations with Cuba.

Candidate Trump pledged to close the recently reopened U.S. Embassy in Havana, cut the economic bonds established over the past two years and roll back regulations that made travel to the long-estranged island easier for U.S. citizens.

Now, dozens of major American companies that have started or expanded operations in Cuba under Obama's policy will try to persuade Trump to ignore the political side of his brain and listen to the business side. That will be the ultimate test for Obama's Cuba strategy of creating so many business opportunities that his successor would face the full weight of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a long list of businesses pushing to maintain the new links to the communist government that controls the country.

That list includes most major airlines, which have started regularly scheduled commercial flights to Cuba, and Carnival Corp., which is already running a regular Cuba cruise. It will include Starwood Hotels and Resorts, which is operating three Cuban hotels, and Airbnb, which is being used by more than 8,000 Cubans to rent their rooms to travelers.

There are tech giants, like Google and Cisco, trying to develop Cuba's bare-bones telecommunications infrastructure, cellphone giants offering roaming services and banks starting to offer U.S.-issued credit and debit card services.

"Everybody is looking for a seat at the table," said Pedro Freyre, a Miami-based attorney for the Akerman law firm, which represents many U.S. businesses operating in Cuba. "All of us who are stakeholders in Cuba are very active in lobbying. At this very moment, they are seeking an audience with the teams that will be part of the new administration."

On the other side, the long-standing political coalitions that oppose any opening with Cuba will be tugging at the billionaire businessman's ear as well. That is led by a powerful bloc of Cuban-American members of Congress. They have described Obama's opening as a failed policy that has done nothing to moderate government control of the economy and a dismal human rights record.

"By any objective measure, President Obama’s unilateral policy changes have failed, and they are not in the best interest of the American people or the people of Cuba," said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. "Rolling back President Obama's one-sided concessions to the Castro regime, a key campaign promise shared with President-elect Trump, will be a top priority for me next year."

Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro announced the historic end to their countries' estrangement on Dec. 17, 2014, ending 55 years of isolation between the Cold War foes and sparking a surge in trade and travel between the United States and Cuba.

Travel to Cuba as a tourist is still forbidden under the economic embargo the U.S. maintains — and that Congress has vowed will remain. But in the first six months of this year, 136,913 Americans visited Cuba, up 180% from the same period in 2015, according to Cuba's National Office of Statistics and Information.

Defenders of Obama's policy say the rush of Americans has helped everyday Cubans, especially the growing numbers of private entrepreneurs.

Ricardo Torres Pérez, an economist at the Center for Studies of the Cuban Economy in Havana, said those tourists provide tangible benefits to Cubans who rent their homes to them, drive them around in taxis, take them on tours and feed them in restaurants.

"More interest in Cuba that helps some businesses and gives hope to the people? That is good," Torres said. "That doesn't reach all Cubans, but it's a good start."

The increased travel has gone the other way, too, helping Cubans visit relatives, set up business relationships and study in the U.S. Many are Cuban entrepreneurs like Marta Deus, 28, a Havana resident who spent six weeks studying marketing and sales at Florida International University in Miami through an exchange program created after the rapprochement.

Deus now runs an accounting firm for Cuban entrepreneurs, a messenger service in Havana and a business magazine launched this month, and she employs nine full-time employees and several part-time contractors. She said the Cuban government has not made enough changes to take full advantage of the opportunities created by the Obama administration, but Trump's proposal to close the door would hurt regular Cubans in so many ways.

"All those cultural exchanges, they're important," she said. "No country can flourish if it's closed to the world."

Guillermo Fariñas sees all those changes and scoffs. The leading Cuban dissident, who recently completed his 25th hunger strike protesting the Cuban regime, said they've done nothing to change the underlying problem in Cuba: its political system and horrid human rights record.

The Seventh Congress of the Cuban Communist Party ended in April with no changes to the government's one-party rule. And Fariñas, one of the dissidents who met with President Obama during a March visit to Havana, said Cuba's crackdown on political opposition has only increased.

In 2013, the Cuban government made 6,424 arrests of dissidents and political prisoners, according to the Cuban Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation. Through the first 10 months of 2016, that number is already 9,125.

Fariñas said that should have been expected since the Obama administration gave plenty during its negotiations but secured little in return.

"Like you would see in any negotiation, the Cuban government should be expected to give something to get something back," he said. "On the contrary, the Cuban government was given many economic concessions, political credibility and (Castro) has only responded by increasing political repression."

Cuba Central Newsblast
The Center for Democracy in the Americas

November 18, 2016

No one knows to a provable certainty what President-elect Trump plans to do about U.S.-Cuba relations. We are neither wild-eyed optimists, believing that he will take relations in the same direction as President Obama, nor are we ready to concede "game over," despite considerable evidence that the winds of diplomacy based on engagement may soon shift. 
In The Age of Reason, Thomas Paine wrote of "deducing or proving a truth that would be otherwise unknown, from truths already known." In these times, following the facts could make that reasoning dubious, but using evidence to answer the question, "What happens next?" is the only reasonable thing to do. 
It may be cold comfort, but those of us who support engagement with Cuba are not the only ones with doubts about the new president's intentions. Consider the Japanese: after a long campaign in which candidate Trump promised to scuttle the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, accused our European and Asian allies for not paying enough for their defenses, and suggested Japan and South Korea get nuclear weapons to defend themselves, Japanese Prime Minister Abe flew 6,700 miles from Tokyo to New York to meet with the president-elect himself. Why? Because, as a respected analyst told the New York Times, "the question the Japanese side still cannot understand is what a Trump administration will actually do on Asia." 
In other words, they know what he said, they just didn't know if he meant it. Is there also room for doubt about Trump's "real" position on Cuba? 
As we and others have reported, Mr. Trump was against the embargo twice (in 1996 and 2015-2016) before he was for it - twice (in 1999 and 2016). While that history is important, let's focus on how he closed his campaign. 
"We will cancel Obama's one-sided Cuban deal, made by executive order," he said in Miami, days before the election, unless Cuba's government capitulates to demands that it change its system. His Vice Presidential nominee, Governor Mike Pence, went even further, saying, "When Donald Trump and I take to the White House, we will reverse Barack Obama's executive orders on Cuba," Politico reported. This reversal would apparently be undertaken unconditionally. 
Personnel is policy, the saying goes, and today the names of Mr. Trump's national security advisor and his nominee to lead the Central Intelligence Agency were released. Retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, who will lead the White House National Security Council, has called Cuba an ally of Radical Islamists that shares their hatred of the West. If confirmed, Congressman Mike Pompeo of Kansas, will serve as CIA Director. He condemned President Obama's opening to Cuba on the day it was announced as appeasement of one of America's enemies. Even if these two men didn't advise Trump the candidate to reverse his position on Cuba, they will likely be advising him to adhere to his campaign promises as president. 
Running the legislative machinery in Congress, Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan are both foes of engagement with Cuba (although Ryan hasn't always been that way). In March, McConnell denounced President Obama's visit to Cuba as "embarrassing," after the President used his appearance on live Cuban television to address themes like human rights and respect for the island's Afro-Cuban population. Last month, Speaker Ryan released a statement which said, "I fully intend to maintain our embargo on Cuba." 
It is not a stretch to expect that the Republican leadership in Congress will be standing by to ensure the President keeps his campaign promise; as it has been for years, support for the embargo and regime change in Cuba was written into their party's 2016 platform. Looking over the leadership's shoulders, the hard edge of the diaspora's embargo supporters - from Senator Rubio to "Pepe" Hernandez, a founder of the Cuban American National Foundation, to Brigade 2506 - will be standing right behind them to ensure that they work on President Trump so he keeps candidate Trump's word. 
Together, they are taking aim at President Obama's Cuba policy executive orders on which the regulatory openings of travel and trade rest. What Obama wrought by the stroke his pen, Trump can strike with his. As Politico observed, his legislative priorities - the tax package, infrastructure development, repeal of Obamacare, etc. - will take time. So will the confirmation of his Cabinet. Why wouldn't the president want to establish momentum by issuing a raft of executive orders reversing as much of President Obama's domestic and foreign policy legacy on day one? This he apparently plans to do, but will his barrage also be aimed at Barack's Cuba policy? 
Lists of likely targets have been printed by the New York Times and The Miami Herald, and proposed by Capitol Hill Cubans. President Trump could close or downgrade the U.S. embassy; eliminate people-to-people to travel; end the regularly scheduled commercial flights to Cuba; change the rules that allow Airbnb and Marriott to operate in Cuba; scrap the new policy allowing imports of rum and cigars, and more. Anything he leaves out, Congress can put on his desk once it actually starts legislating. With the White House and Congress under common party control, we don't see any vetoes looming on the horizon. Arguably, nothing is safe from the chopping block. 
But we can't and won't stop or shrink from the challenge of building on the progress that has been made between the U.S. and Cuba. There are powerful facts on our side, too. 
Although the embargo and travel bans remain in place by statute, President Obama's opening to Cuba is very good policy. For the first time since the Cuban Revolution, an American president stated publicly that a prosperous and stable Cuba was in our country's national interest, and that the policy of starving Cuba's economy and people to foment popular resistance and regime change would finally be ended. 
In addition to restoring diplomatic relations, the administration signed a dozen bilateral agreements in areas where the U.S. and Cuban national interests converged, like environmental protection and counter-narcotics cooperation. These agreements demonstrated, in deeds and words, that our government respected the sovereignty of the Cuban government. 
By easing restrictions on travel and trade, normalization accrued benefits to big business in the U.S. - starting with travel, tourism, and telecommunications - which now has vested interests in keeping the door to Cuba open. With a cruise line sailing into Cuban ports, roaming agreements that enable U.S. travelers to use their cell phones on the island, the commercial airline agreement that is boosting tourism with dozens of flights into Cuba every day, the joint venture agreement bringing Marriott into the Cuban market, and more - all of this ties Cuba and the U.S. closer together in a mutually beneficial relationship that provides profits and jobs to companies and workers on both sides of the Florida Strait. 
The reforms were designed, as Reuters wrote it, to make it "difficult, if not impossible for any Republican president to reverse the opening to Cuba." Public opinion polls - among Cuban Americans and the U.S. public at large - tell us the reforms have strong, deep, and bipartisan support. If his plan is to pull them down, this decision could be costly. Bob Muse, a lawyer who specializes in U.S.-Cuba trade law, told the New York Times that if Trump were to cancel these agreements, the U.S. government could be financially liable for pulling the rug out from companies who relied on the new rules to do deals. 
The critics like to say that the new policy isn't working, but the facts suggest otherwise. It is working for hundreds of thousands of Americans who have reclaimed most - but not all - of our rights to travel to Cuba. As Americans travel to Cuba, we are building bridges that policy reversals will be hard-pressed to take down, and money spent as travelers lands in the pockets of Cubans engaged in private enterprise. 
From the moment President Obama reinstated travel for Cuban American families, he was giving entrepreneurial Cubans fuel to fire their enthusiasm for working in Cuba's private economy, and a reason to remain on the island and build Cuba's future. 
It is working for Americans once doomed by lung cancer, as we report below, who are now getting access to life-extending vaccines created by Cuba's biotechnology and pharma companies. 
It is even working in Miami, in the precincts and places most associated with anti-Castro resistance, among exiles who now believe that "one of President Obama's best decisions," was changing U.S. policy toward Cuba. 
In a letter he sent to President-elect Trump, Adolfo Garcia, who voted for the New York businessman-turned-politician, invoked his past in an appeal not to upend the policy: 
"No matter how horrible the Castro Regime was to my parents and many others, including me, this is late 2016 and life must go on," Garcia wrote. "It is time from the U.S. side to open fully with Cuba and change US law and end the Embargo." 
These are powerful words. But will they be heard in Trump Tower? 
Charles Lane, in a Washington Post opinion column, advises us to take Trump seriously and literally. Trump, he says, has core beliefs, citing his opposition to global trade and his support for law and order. We should take him at his word. Question is: which one? 
What embargo supporters want most is to beef up the embargo to dry up revenues to the Cuban state. That's a tall order - telling JetBlue and American Airlines and other carriers who have restored commercial service to ground their planes, and telling Marriott to come home and let the Cuban hotels they are managing mind themselves. 
Will he? Maybe. But as Bob Muse says, "Rescinding enhanced travel that Obama has introduced would be the most tragic thing Trump might do, but I don't think he will. He has invested a lifetime in travel, resorts and hotel accommodations, and it's a global enterprise. It seems counterintuitive." 
Trump, after all, has been focused on Cuba for twenty years. In 1998, as Newsweek reported, his company spent $68,000, probably in violation of the mbargo, looking at potential investments in Cuba. The opening to Cuba is probably pretty close to his core beliefs. It is - and will remain - central to ours
At the end of the day, like you, like the Japanese Prime Minister, we can't be sure what the president-elect will do; although, after the election, the uphill climb toward normalization did get steeper. 
That said, we will leave you with this: 
Trump's "extraordinary mixture of braggadocio and brash populism," Will Grant of the BBC wrote this week, has led some in the region to compare him to the late Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez. Isn't that ironic? The Obama opening being saved by Trump's greatest core beliefs - his belief in himself and his abiding faith that he can always get a better deal.

Rubio, others want Trump to ditch Obama efforts to improve U.S.-Cuba relations
By Doug G. Ware   |   Updated Nov. 17, 2016 at 7:42 AM

WASHINGTON, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- As President-elect Donald Trump prepares to move into the White House, Republicans have rattled off a list of Obama administration projects they want overturned, including scaling back relations with Cuba.

In recent days, GOP lawmakers have mentioned a host of items they want Trump to jump on -- from President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law to the Iran nuclear pact to the next Supreme Court justice.

Now, throw Cuba into the mix.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., once a Trump rival for the GOP nomination for president, said Tuesday he's hoping the controversial billionaire will act quickly and scrap Obama's efforts to improve the long-frigid diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Obama's administration began working to improve U.S.-Cuba relations many months ago, producing a number of results -- including renewed business access and passenger travel between both nations, and an easing of U.S. sanctions against the Caribbean country. In March, Obama also became the first sitting president to visit Cuba in 88 years.

The new working relationship is a far cry from the decades of radio silence, political confrontation and military saber-rattling that defined U.S.-Cuban diplomacy during the Cold War.

Now, though, it seems that some in the Republican Party might view those as the good ol' days.

"By any objective measure, President Obama's unilateral policy changes have failed, and they are not in the best interest of the American people or the people of Cuba," the junior senator said in a statement Tuesday. "Rolling back President Obama's one-sided concessions to the Castro regime, a key campaign promise shared with President-elect Trump, will be a top priority for me next year."

Rubio introduced a resolution in September to honor Cuban dissident Guillermo "Coco" Fariñas, who has opposed the Cuban regime of Raul Castro. Another prominent Republican, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, joined Rubio in the measure.

Rubio, who met with Fariñas in Washington on Wednesday, isn't alone in opposing improved relations with Cuba. A good number of Cuban-Americans are also against rekindling ties with what they view as an oppressive government that has a poor track record on human rights.

"I have faith that President Trump will be better for the people of Cuba and press the cause of freedom and democracy," Fariñas told Fox News. "Let's just say no one can possibly be worse than Barack Obama has been for our cause."

During his campaign, Trump said he planned to revoke Obama's executive orders regarding Cuba unless Castro's regime took steps to make substantial reforms on human rights.

The Cuban-American National Foundation, an organization that opposes Castro and calls for a free Cuba, said in September that there will be no investment in Cuba without major reforms.

"Despite the U.S. government's efforts to promote a better environment for U.S. investments in Cuba and direct engagement with the Cuban people, a multitude of American investors have gone to Cuba and realized that the current economic model is not conducive to foreign investment or trade," CANF said. "There exists no possibility of meaningful, economic investment in Cuba or the achievement of sustainable development until there are deep structural reforms; reforms that the Castro government has refused to undertake."

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., a supporter of Hillary Clinton, said he is also curious to see what Trump will do on this issue.

"It depends on which Donald Trump shows up -- the Donald Trump who said earlier in his campaign that he thinks it was good to engage Cuba, or the Donald Trump toward the end of the campaign who said he'd consider rolling back much of what Obama did unless there's advantage for the Cuban people," he told Fox News Wednesday.

Chad Olin, a Harvard Business graduate who has worked for years to establish trade in Cuba, wonders what he's in for with Donald Trump in the White House.

"I am still trying to think about what this means for my business that I spent literally the last two years working on, setting up something that was going to be perfect for an open market," he told The New York Times. "If we go back to the old way, I don't know if I have a business. It's a huge blow."

Business or Politics? Examining Donald Trump’s Record for Clues to Cuba Policy


NOV. 15, 2016

During his presidential campaign, Donald J. Trump vowed to roll back policy initiatives that expanded business and travel in Cuba.

MIAMI — To Chad Olin, it seemed like the perfect opportunity: Decades of animosity between the United States and Cuba were peeling away, opening a final frontier in the Caribbean to dollar-wielding Americans.

Mr. Olin, 30, a Harvard Business School graduate, gave up a career in private equity to break into the Cuba travel market. He started a company that organizes trips for millennials to legally visit Cuba — a business made possible because President Obama has broadened travel to the island and expanded licenses for Americans to do business there.

So what happens now, Mr. Olin wonders.

On the campaign trail, President-elect Donald J. Trump threatened to roll back the sweeping détente with Cuba, lambasting the “concessions” made to its Communist government and raising the possibility that one of Mr. Obama’s signature foreign policy initiatives could be stripped away.

“I am still trying to think about what this means for my business that I spent literally the last two years working on, setting up something that was going to be perfect for an open market,” Mr. Olin said. “If we go back to the old way, I don’t know if I have a business. It’s a huge blow.”

Hundreds of thousands of people have taken advantage of Mr. Obama’s decisions to loosen travel and other restrictions on Cuba. More Americans and Cuban émigrés now travel to Cuba, and the number of Americans that visited the country rose by 50 percent last year, according to the state news media.

More Cubans receive money transfers and parcels. There’s a Four Points Sheraton in Havana, and three more hotels set to open. Airbnb rents private rooms, and American Airlines is about to start direct flights to Havana.

For them, and Mr. Olin, the critical question remains whether Mr. Trump, a real estate mogul and hotel developer, will be a businessman at heart and allow Mr. Obama’s measures to continue — or if he will instead keep a vow he made and scale back everything from diplomatic relations to the unlimited rum and cigars Mr. Obama recently allowed from Cuba.

Such a move by Mr. Trump would underscore the shifting relations between the United States and Cuba, which have long depended on who occupied the Oval Office.

“Several large European investment groups have asked me to take the ‘Trump Magic’ to Cuba,” Mr. Trump once wrote in a 1999 editorial in The Miami Herald supporting the trade embargo against Cuba.

“My investment in Cuba would directly subsidize the oppression of the Cuban people,” he said at the time. “But I’d rather lose those millions than lose my self-respect.”

Mr. Trump has, at other times, been vague on the issue. During the primary contest, he repeatedly said that he thought restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba was “fine,” but added the United States and the Cuban people did not get enough in return.

But as the election approached, Mr. Trump grew less equivocal.

In March, he told CNN that he would “probably” continue having diplomatic relations with Cuba, but he said he would want “much better deals than we’re making.”

Then, Mr. Trump took a harder line in Miami this fall.

“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,” Mr. Trump said at a campaign event in September. “Not my demands. Our demands.”

Vice President-elect Mike Pence reaffirmed that stance on Twitter, saying Mr. Trump would repeal Mr. Obama’s executive orders unless there is “real political and religious freedom.”

Asked by a reporter if his comments meant he would break off diplomatic relations with Cuba, Mr. Trump suggested that he might, and said he probably would not appoint an ambassador to Cuba.

“The agreement President Obama signed is a very weak agreement,” he said. “We get nothing. The people of Cuba get nothing, and I would do whatever is necessary to get a good agreement.”

Robert L. Muse, a lawyer who specializes in United States-Cuba trade law, said Mr. Trump seemed to believe that Washington had struck a single deal with Cuba, when in reality there are several agreements that range from direct mail to managing oil spills.

Mr. Trump could pick through them one by one to eliminate the ones he dislikes and keep others. But Mr. Muse said the American government could be financially liable if it pulled out the rug from companies that had acted in good faith.

“Rescinding enhanced travel that Obama has introduced would be the most tragic thing Trump might do, but I don’t think he will,” Mr. Muse said. “He has invested a lifetime in travel, resorts and hotel accommodations, and it’s a global enterprise. It seems counterintuitive.”

What else could Mr. Trump do?

Change travel rules. Tourism to Cuba is still illegal under the embargo, but President Bill Clinton was the first to allow “people-to-people” excursions that allow travelers to go if the trip was, for example, for educational or religious purposes. President George W. Bush scrapped those, and then Mr. Obama expanded them so that travelers no longer needed to get special permission first.

Under Mr. Bush, a Cuban-American could visit once every three years. Now, it’s unlimited.

Cuba and the United States agreed to allow up to 90 daily round-trip flights between the nations, the Department of Transportation said.

Southwest began its service on Sunday, and American Airlines is set to start flights to Havana on Nov. 28.

“We are full steam ahead and can’t speculate as to any possible future changes,” Martha Pantin, an American Airlines spokeswoman, said.

Scrap the contentious “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy. When tens of thousands of Cubans took to the seas in 1994, Mr. Clinton changed American policy so that anyone caught at sea was sent back. But tens of thousands of Cubans continue to migrate to the United States anyway, most by land, because if they arrive they can stay. Many have walked across the Americas to reach the southern border.

“One of the big, main ways Trump looks at foreign policy is through the issue of immigration,” said Phil Peters, a longtime Cuba expert who now serves as a consultant for American companies seeking to do business there. “When it gets to Cuba, he’s going to see a country where there’s a lot of illegal immigration coming to the United States.”

Change the rules that allow businesses like Airbnb and Marriott to operate in Cuba. He can do this. But if he’s a developer at heart, would he?

John S. Kavulich, the president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, said that in the 1990s the Trump organization inquired with him about the logistics of doing business in Cuba. Newsweek reported that Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts paid at least $68,000 to a consulting firm in late 1998 to go to Cuba on the company’s behalf, in an apparent violation of the American trade embargo.

Maurcio Claver-Carone, the founder of a political action committee that supports the trade embargo, said Mr. Trump seemed genuinely moved by stories of human rights violations in Cuba, so he “made a commitment” to the Cuban-American community that he is likely to keep.

He is most likely to repeal the orders that were “blatantly inconsistent with U.S. law,” Mr. Claver-Caron said, such as allowing investments with companies run by the Cuban military. (The hotel industry in Cuba is run by the armed forces.)

Mr. Trump could also overturn a move from late October that broadened the pool of Cuban officials who are allowed to receive cash allowances and conduct banking transactions with Americans, he said.

The Trump transition team did not respond to a request for comment.

But in Cuba, several people interviewed said that the changes Mr. Obama made had not yet made their way down to the people. Some felt that the expansion of business opportunities had helped the Castro government, not the people, so they were generally pleased with the idea of a Trump administration.

Roberto Peñalber, 34, said that many Cubans felt forced to flee under Mr. Obama, because they feared he would rescind preferable immigration treatment for Cubans.

“Now we don’t have to worry about that,” he said. “Trump could possibly make better deals than Hillary. She’s more communist than he is. That’s maybe why the United States voted for Trump.”

Follow Frances Robles on Twitter @FrancesRobles.

Hannah Berkeley Cohen contributed to this report from Havana.

What does a Trump presidency mean for US-Cuba relations?

By Will Grant
Cuba correspondent, BBC News
12 November 2016

Many wonder if the newly opened diplomatic ties between the US and Cuba will hold

The headline greeting Cubans the morning after Donald Trump won the US election sounded alarming.

Five days of military exercises were scheduled to take place across the island this month, said the state-run newspaper, Granma, as Cuba's armed forces readied themselves for "a range of enemy actions".

In reality, those exercises take place every few years and, by the end of the day, President Raul Castro had sent his formal congratulations to Mr Trump, who will take office in the wake of last year's re-establishment of ties between Havana and Washington.

Even that brief congratulatory message represents an important break with the past.

Quite what the 85-year-old communist leader makes of the former reality TV star isn't clear. He has seen 10 US presidents come and go since he and his brother, Fidel, took power in 1959, some of them vehemently opposed to the Castro government and intent on forcing them from office.

Mr Trump's comments on Cuba have been conflicting

Raul Castro is unlikely to have dealt with a US political figure quite like Donald J Trump.

The extraordinary mixture of braggadocio and brash populism is more often compared with a very different Latin American leader: the late Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez.

Beyond their personal differences, though, it is Mr Trump's position on the much-vaunted process of thaw that is most under scrutiny in Cuba at this stage. Early in his campaign he said he was "fine" with the Obama administration's policy of rapprochement.

"Fifty years is enough time, folks," he said during a CNN televised debate.

Rolling back detente?

However, by the end of the arduous campaign, he was in Little Havana in Miami, drinking coffee with Cuban-American opponents of the thaw in the well-known Cafe Versailles.

He promised anti-Castro Republicans that he would roll back on Mr Obama's detente, would keep the decades-long US economic embargo on the island firmly in place and would even close the recently reopened US embassy in Havana.

"I want to believe that this was last-minute election opportunism, a kind of old-style form of it and one which I don't think benefited him that much," says Mike Bustamante, an assistant professor in Latin American history at Florida International University.

Certainly it didn't seem to make a huge difference at the polls, as Hillary Clinton got roughly the same percentage of the Cuban vote in Florida as Barack Obama did in 2012.

"It's hard to say whether he's genuinely planning to implement these policies. Let's not forget that a number of years ago representatives of his companies violated the embargo by coming out and scouting out investment opportunities in Cuba," says Dr Bustamante, referring to an article in Newsweek magazine which alleges that Trump executives visited Cuba in 1998.

His campaign argued that the story simply showed he didn't invest any money on the island.

Still, if he approaches the issue as a hotel businessman, President Trump might actually prove more favourable to lifting the embargo than he led his audience in South Florida to believe.

Dr Bustamante is less concerned about what a Trump administration would do in the short-term than seeing both houses of Congress and the White House in Republican hands.

"If folks in Congress who oppose the normalisation add an amendment to a bill that strips away a piece [of the detente], would a Trump White House threaten a veto?" he asks rhetorically.

However, one of the key lobby groups pushing for greater engagement with Cuba actually believes the latest make up of the House and the Senate could work in their favour.

"On Tuesday night, the pro-engagement forces picked up four senators and over 10 pro-engagement members in the House," says James Williams, president of the "Engage Cuba" advocacy group in Washington DC.

"We came into this in a strong position, but we're actually in a much stronger position than we were a few days ago."

The last time he eased the economic embargo, Mr Obama called his administration's steps towards Cuba "irreversible". But many are based on executive orders and, when president, Mr Trump could repeal them.

James Williams doubts he will. "This is one of the single-most popular policy decisions in the country. We had a poll that showed 63% of Cuban-Americans in Miami want to see the embargo lifted. So the only conclusion to draw is that it should continue to move forward."


Meanwhile, in Havana, the mood is a mixture of uncertainty and stoicism.

"It's terrible news," says Angel Bacallao, a retired state employee. "He said he'd turn to ashes all the steps that Obama has made towards better relations with the US. He'll get rid of them all."

Others noted that Cuba has been through difficulties with Washington many times before.
"We have to wait and see what he's like," says Jose, a private business owner. "He's very unpredictable."

Some in Cuba suggest a Trump presidency might even be welcomed by hardliners who oppose the rapprochement.

"We don't need the empire to give us any presents," Fidel Castro wrote shortly after President Obama's landmark visit.

After all, it's easier to rally people against a traditional enemy than one bearing gifts.

NOVEMBER 10, 2016 8:00 AM

A Trump attempt to reverse Obama’s Cuba policies could be complicated and costly


President-elect Donald Trump has said “concessions” the Obama administration made to Cuba can easily be reversed and that he will unravel them unless U.S. demands are met, but some of the commercial initiatives may be a bit harder to undo than merely signing an executive order.

“The weakness of executive branch action is that what one president does another can easily undo. Trump can rescind the executive orders, but I think it’s unlikely that he would do a wholesale repeal of Obama’s executive actions,” said Robert Muse, a Washington lawyer. “It’s a bigger decision than it might appear.”

Since the normalization process began, a Miami-based cruise line has begun to sail to Cuban ports, U.S. telecom companies have established roaming agreements with Cuba, commercial airlines are flying from U.S. cities to Cuba, Marriott has entered into a joint venture to manage some Cuban hotels, and Cuba has become Airbnb’s fastest growing market.

A pharmaceutical joint venture is about to begin clinical trials in the United States, other U.S. companies are in various stages of trying to close deals with Cuba and travel to the island by Americans has greatly expanded.

These ventures and expanded travel were all made possible by executive orders and regulatory changes since President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raúl Castro began a process of rapprochement on Dec. 17, 2014 and would be affected by any abrupt change in U.S. Cuba policy.

Because the companies struck deals in good faith based on existing U.S. regulations, they could be entitled to compensation or would need to be grandfathered-in to new policies, said Muse. That interpretation is based on a provision of the Fifth Amendment that says no one can be deprived of property “without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

“These companies have expended real time and money on these deals,” he said.

Obama’s policies also have been designed to encourage Cuba’s budding self-employed sector, and U.S. business executives, including some Cuban-Americans, have tried to encourage Cuba’s new entrepreneurs with advice and support.

“Reversing Cuba policy also would mean we are turning our backs on them,” said Carlos Gutierrez, who served as secretary of commerce under George W. Bush and has traveled to Cuba numerous times since the rapprochement began. Throwing out all of Obama’s initiatives would “be complicated and not an easy call,” he said.

“It’s politically difficult to say to U.S. business interests that I’m just going to change the law of the land. It carriers a political cost,” said Pedro Freyre, a Miami lawyer who has represented companies interested in doing business with Cuba.

Here’s a look at some areas that could change under a Trump presidency:

The U.S. Embassy in Havana — Trump could downgrade it to a U.S. Interests Section again or even close it.

“In foreign affairs, the president’s authority is at its fullest extent,” said Muse. When the United States decided to break off relations with Cuba in 1961, it was a presidential decision.

But Gutierrez said Congress has provided no additional funding for the U.S. Embassy in Havana even though the embassy’s workload has expanded and it handles necessary interactions between the two countries. “Why would he close it?” he asked.

The nomination of Jeffrey DeLaurentis, currently chief of mission in Havana, as the first U.S. ambassador to Cuba in more than 50 years also could be a casualty of a Trump presidency. Obama nominated him in September and he has yet to be confirmed by the Senate.

Immigration — If Trump wanted to bring Cuban immigration policy into line with his stated position to prevent waves of illegal immigrants from entering the United States, it would be fairly easy to do.

Wet foot/dry foot, which generally allows Cubans who make it to U.S. shores to remain and sends back those picked up at sea, is a policy, not a law, and could be changed from one day to the next.

The Cuban Adjustment Act, which allows Cubans to apply for permanent residency in the United States after a year — even if they arrive without a visa or are smuggled into the country — gives the U.S. attorney general the discretion to grant them parole. The law could remain in effect, “but the attorney general could stop granting discretionary parole,” said Muse.

Travel — Ever since the 1960s, various U.S. presidents have expanded and limited travel to Cuba. Currently Cuban-Americans may make unlimited family visits to the island and other Americans who fall into 12 categories, such as those making educational trips or on people-to-people tours, also are allowed to travel to Cuba.

But during his presidency, George W. Bush barred people-to-people visits and limited visits by Cuban-Americans to once every three years. Rather than rescinding the licenses of people-to-people tour operators, the Bush administration let their two-year licenses run out and didn’t renew them.

If Trump were to place restrictions on U.S. travelers, he would probably have to make such a policy effective at a future date, because reservations and hotel deposits by travelers would be affected, Muse said.

Presidential policy directive — In October, Obama issued a 12-page presidential policy directive that sought to institutionalize his changes toward Cuba. It was intended to be used as manual to help guide federal agencies in their future relations with Cuba. Such presidential directives generally aren’t made public and can be changed from one administration to the next. Administrative officials said it would help make the Obama opening toward Cuba “irreversible.”

But some believe that the new U.S.-Cuba relationship hasn’t progressed to the point that it is irreversible. “There was a lot of loose talk about irreversibility. It was wishful thinking,” said Muse.

The question is whether Trump the businessman or Trump the politician will prevail when it comes to Cuba policy. During the campaign both sides were in evidence.

In recent weeks, Trump has said he can reverse Obama’s executive orders and will “unless the Castro regime meets our demands. Not my demands — our demands. Those demands will include religious and political freedom for the Cuban people, and the freeing of political prisoners.”

In an effort to win Cuban-American votes, he repeated that message in Miami just a week before the election.

But on previous occasions he said normalization was fine — although he thought Obama’s policies didn’t go far enough in pushing U.S. interests and that he intended to get a better deal.

“During the campaign he also said 50 years of the same policy was enough, and then he started fund-raising and came to Miami and was convinced to take a different approach,” said Gutierrez, who is now chairman of the Albright Stonebridge Group and favors engagement with Cuba.

Based on Trump’s recent rhetoric and “the people he has been surrounding himself with, he may reverse what has been done, and I think that would be a shame,” he said.

Pro-embargo Cuban-Americans have been encouraged by Trump’s recent comments and his win in Florida.

“Candidates should stop taking advice from a handful of greedy businessmen who are clueless as regards the real pulse of the Cuban-American community,” said Mauricio Claver-Carone in the Capitol Hill Cubans blog. He said Trump’s Cuban-American supporters will hold him to his “commitment to reverse Obama’s executive orders.”

“He would be killing dozens of American deals, blowing it all up for some Cuban-American votes. Where is the logic in that?” asked Freyre, the chairman of Akerman law firm’s international practice. Trump, he pointed out, also won big in the Midwest farm states that want to sell agricultural products to Cuba and are pushing to have a financing prohibition lifted so their products will be more competitive.

Some Republicans believe a change in Cuba policy under Trump wouldn’t necessarily mean dismantling the entire normalization process.

“What I hope as a Republican and as someone who has been involved with Cuba for 24 years is that Trump would look at the potential for business with Cuba and fast-track things,” said Charlie Serrano, managing director of Chicago-based Antilles Strategy Group, which has taken congressional leaders and business executives to Cuba.

Obama’s regulatory changes were made piecemeal and the Cuban side has been slow to take the U.S. up on many business overtures.

“Some of this stuff is not moving fast enough,” Serrano said. “I think Trump will be interested in getting Cuban policies in a place where the United States benefits more. My hope is he will look at things from a business point of view. Canceling out everything that Obama has done would not be a good thing; it wouldn’t be wise for American business.”

Analysts say that if Obama’s overtures had actually increased trade between the two countries significantly or if the Cuban side had facilitated U.S. investment in Cuban infrastructure projects, it might have created more stakeholders and made Obama’s policies more difficult to reverse.

“There will be political push on all sides; there will be business push,” said Freyre. Cuba policy “will be an interesting exercise for our next president. We are definitely in for some interesting times.”

Read more here:

Trump's hard line adopted in last months before the election
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