President Trump’s new Cuba policy effectively cuts off any new U.S. dollars from flowing into the coffers of the apartheid Castro dictatorship. However, some Cuban American lawmakers say the president’s restrictions do not go far enough.
Trump’s Cuba clampdown criticised for not going far enough
Despite new rules, Havana says it is still open for business
After President Donald Trump’s tough talk on Cuba and his promise to roll back his predecessor Barack Obama’s “failed policy of appeasement”, his latest measures have been lambasted for not going far enough.On Wednesday, the US issued regulations that clamp down on transactions tied to the Cuban military, intelligence and security services.
The new rules flesh out a directive signed in Miami in June, when Mr Trump said he would squeeze companies linked to the Cuban military, while making exceptions for US airlines, cruise operators and other groups that had already opened in Cuba.
But senior Cuban-American lawmakers have unexpectedly criticised the new rules for not doing enough to cut off cash to the communist island, claiming that “bureaucrats” had watered down Mr Trump’s tougher approach.
“Unfortunately… bureaucrats in the state department who oppose the president’s Cuba policy refused to fully implement it,” Marco Rubio, Republican senator for Florida, said in a statement.
“I am disappointed… that the regulations do not fully implement what the president ordered,” Mario Diaz-Balart, a Florida congressman, said separately.
The criticism is particularly striking as the two lawmakers helped draft Mr Trump’s June policy directive.
Analysts said it suggested that some of the forces for change initiated by Mr Obama’s process of détente two years ago had taken on a life of their own, especially among US businesses.
“This is cold war 3.5,” said Pedro Freyre of US law firm Akerman, who advises US companies seeking to do business in Cuba. “There is still the weird cold war rhetoric of old, only it’s different. It’s as if the Cuban guerrillas are still in the Sierra — only now they have cell phones; and the US is glowering from the beach — even as it eyes potential condos.”
Cuba, where Raúl Castro is expected to step down as president next year, has responded to Mr Trump’s frostier approach by claiming that is “open for business”. Last week, officials said they had signed $2bn of foreign investment deals this year — a remarkable doubling of the total that Havana has signed since revamping investment regulations in 2014.
Caterpillar and Deere & Co signed distribution agreements on the island this month for sales of their iconic earthmoving and agricultural equipment. Those agreements are allowed despite the new US rules due to a series of exceptions that includes commercial engagements already in place.
This is to avoid what the US Treasury called “negative impact” on US business. The same holds for a Sheraton Four Points hotel in Havana, even though its joint venture partner is a Cuban entity linked to the military — a carve-out criticised by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida congresswoman.
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