Lawmakers pitch Cuba relations as national security matter

Politico Morning Trade

A group of House lawmakers is urging the Trump administration not to undo some of former President Barack Obama’s actions to normalize relations with Cuba. Reps. Tom Emmer and Rick Crawford, two outspoken proponents of boosting ties to Cuba, led seven lawmakers in writing a letter warning that that failing to engage the island nation would open the door for traditional U.S. adversaries like Russia and China “to fill the vacuum in our own backyard.”

“Allowing this to happen could have disastrous results for the security of the United States,” they wrote. “We urge you to prioritize U.S. national security and not return to a policy of isolation that will only serve to embolden adversarial foreign power in the region.”

Stay tuned for more on Trump’s Cuba policy this week. The president travels to Miami on Friday, where he is expected to announce that he will tighten some restrictions on those who travel to and do business with Cuba. This would fulfill a campaign promise he made to reverse historic changes Obama made more than three years ago when he removed decades of diplomatic and economic barriers between the two countries, POLITICO’s Mark Caputo and Sergio Bustos report.

“The specifics of Trump's executive action aren't yet clear, according to sources familiar with the administration's discussions. But it's expected to bear the stamp of two pro-embargo anti-Castro Miami Republican hardliners, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who helped advise the White House and national security officials.”

Proponents of a more open Cuba policy turned the spotlight on Trump’s dealings with other hardline governments including those of Egypt, Turkey and the Philippines.

"We're hopeful that a dramatic campaign style event in Miami is more of a symbolic gesture to appease two Cuban American members of Congress, rather than an unveiling of substantive changes to policies that are supported by a bipartisan majority of Congress and the American people,” James Williams, president of the Engage Cuba Coalition, which advocates normalizing trade and travel ties with the Caribbean island nation, said in a statement.

His group released a study earlier this month that found reversing the Obama administration’s Cuba policies would cost the U.S. economy $6.6 billion and affect 12,295 American jobs over the course of the first term of the Trump administration.