By James Williams
First a bit of history- February 6, 1962, President John F. Kennedy, gave his friend, White House Press Secretary Pierre Salinger, some cash, then told him to go out and buy, ‘1,000 Petit Upmanns’ cigars. Salinger, returned to the White House the next morning with 1200 cigars and at 8 a.m. President Kennedy, signed the trade Embargo Against Cuba, stopping the importing as well exporting of goods and travel between the two countries.
Today in Miami President Donald Trump will keep a campaign promise to the South Florida Cuban community when he announces increased restrictions toward the island nation. The actions by the White House to roll back the relaxing of trade and travel Embargo Against Cuba, taken by former President Barack Obama will have an impact on Florida.
The key is how far will the White House go in rolling back the Obama – Cuba embargo?
The United States, prohibits tourism to Cuba, that said, the US Treasury Department currently allows travelers to “self-license” under 12 different categories of travel, such as educational tours and participating in sporting events. Trump will end that practice for so called “people to people” travel, which has created a loophole that allows almost anyone to travel to the island legally, senior White House officials said told CNN and the AP. Americans traveling to Cuba will face more scrutiny and potentially audits of their trip when they get back home in order to prove their dollars didn’t go to the Cuban military’s pockets, which control much of the tourism economy.
Restricting travel to Cuba will likely impact earnings for the US airlines and cruise ship companies that began service to Cuba in 2016 and go against a rising anti-travel sanctions sentiment.
For background, on December 17, 2014, former President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro made a surprise simultaneous announcement after months of secret talks to swap prisoners and open a dialogue between the long time Cold War foes.
Over the next two years was the most significant change in US-Cuban relations since the 1959 revolution. Companies were racing like Airbnb, Google and Sheraton hotels began to operate in Cuba. U.S. airlines and cruise ships restored service to the communist-run island. Relaxed travel laws allowed hundreds of thousands of Americans to visit Cuba for the first time.
By many accounts this will cost the state of Florida jobs, as well as money going to corporations who wanted to invest in the Cuba marketplace.
Both St. Petersburg and Tampa have been battling to land the Cuban Consulate. There are flights, cruses, and investments made in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando to travel to Cuba while at the same time do business with the island nation.
According to The Hill, Trump is expected to leave the U.S. embassy in Havana and will not bring back the “wet foot, dry foot” policy that allowed Cuban migrants who made it to the U.S. to stay in the country, a policy Obama eliminated in the final days of his presidency.
According to Engage Cuba, a United States based group that is pro investment in the island nation the reversal of 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. According to reports from the airline industry they could lose as much as $700 million alone.
While the Engage Cuba, does not include agricultural and medical exports because provisions allowing for limited exports in these sectors were authorized by Congress in 2001, thus predating Obama-era regulatory changes. New regulations proposed by the White House will have a dramatic impact on exporting agricultural commodities to Cuba could cost an additional $1.5 billion and affect 2,205 jobs more U.S. jobs.
Florida would take a big hit in the shipping and tourism along with other states that have deep water ports on the Gulf of Mexico, like Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi, all of which supported President Trump in the 2016 election.
Meanwhile, in an article written by Robert Donachie, for the highly respected conservative publication The Daily Caller, addresses what he reports, could be a national security problem.
“We are grateful that your Administration [Trump] is conducting such a thorough review of the current U.S.-Cuba policy,” the members of Congress wrote in a letter Thursday released to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “However, as a matter of U.S. national security, we are deeply concerned about recent reports that your Administration is considering reversing new policies towards Cuba.”
According to the story in The Daily Caller, the members of Congress are specifically concerned about Russia and China, given that the nations are already working to improve their political and economic ties to the island some 90 miles off the coast of the U.S. The top export destination for Cuban products is China, which the Massachusetts Institute of Technology estimates at around $308 million a year.
Allowing China and Russia to become the dominant players in Cuba, the lawmakers warn, “could have disastrous results for the security of the United States.”
Politically, Florida’s own Sen. Marco Rubio, was one of the loudest voices against former President Obama’s relaxing the Cuban embargo.
Rubio and other Florida critics of Obama argued that, in lifting the embargo, we have given too much to Cuban President Raul Castro and are receiving far less in return.
He spoke to the Spanish edition of the Miami Hearld, “I am confident that President Trump will treat Cuba like the dictatorship it is and that our policy going forward will reflect the fact that it is not in the national interest of the United States for us to be doing business with the Cuban military,” Rubio told el Nuevo Herald.