Evening Standard: Donald Trump ‘to end Barack Obama’s Cuba appeasement’

Evening Standard




Donald Trump will today order an overhaul of one of Barack Obama’s major legacies, by bringing the curtain down on America’s historic détente with Cuba.

In a speech in Miami, the president is expected to announce a roll-back on travel and business ties in a bid to crack down on the Castro government.

He has repeatedly blasted Mr Obama for his “bad deal” with Cuba and says the two-year rapprochement is a failed policy of appeasement. By enforcing tough new curbs on Americans travelling to Cuba and doing business with Havana, Mr Trump appeared ready to renew hostilities with America’s former Cold War foe.

According to the New York Times, members of his administration had urged him in vain not to sacrifice the security and economic benefits enjoyed since Mr Obama’s change of US policy. His new directive will bar independent travel to Cuba, meaning US tourists will only be able to join licensed tour groups. It will also stop Americans doing business with Cuban military, intelligence or security  services, which control vast sections of the island’s economy, including many foreign-owned hotels.

To get the new restrictions lifted, the Cuban government would have to hold “free and fair” elections, release political prisoners and allow workers to be paid directly, officials said.

There was mixed reaction to the move in the US, with Cuban-American groups welcoming stiffer sanctions on the Cuban regime, now headed by the late Fidel Castro’s brother Raúl. But business leaders and human rights advocates spoke out against the reversal.

“The idea that, after 55 years of  failure, going back to isolationist  policies will produce any results is insane,” said James Williams, president of the Engage Cuba group.

Mr Trump’s latest attempt to unravel his predecessor’s landmark achievements came as the “Russia-gate” probe continued to dominate politics in Washington. Vice-President Mike Pence last night followed the lead of Mr Trump and hired his own lawyer to represent him in FBI and congressional investigations into Russia’s alleged meddling in last year’s election.

Mr Pence’s move came after it was revealed that special counsel Robert Mueller had widened his probe to look into allegations that Mr Trump had attempted to obstruct the course of justice. Mr Pence said there was no evidence of collusion between Russian officials and the Trump campaign.

Investigators are also reported to be examining the business interests of the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.