Congressman and Miami Republican Cuban-American Mario Diaz-Balart said “You will never see this president doing the wave with a ruthless dictator at a baseball game,” as a comparison between Trump and Obama’s policies toward Cuba. While we may never see Trump doing the wave with a ruthless dictator, we have seen him do a sword dance with one.
The United States has always been hypocritical with its policy toward Cuba. From the 1950s to the 90s, we used Cuba’s association the Soviet Union as one of our reasons not to engage with the island nation diplomatically, despite our having diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union.
We cite Cuba’s oppression of dissidents, political parties, a free press, and a lack of free elections, while we carried on willy-nilly with the Soviet Union, China, and even Saddam Hussein’s Iraq until he invaded Kuwait. Today we don’t have a problem with monarchies in the Persian Gulf region, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which are both governed by Sharia Law (fun stuff like beheading, stoning, flogging, etc). While we discourage American tourists from visiting Cuba, we’re happy to send them to a land where they can literally have their heads chopped off.
While Trump was getting jiggy in Saudi Arabia, his sycophants were praising the fact there weren’t any protests against him there, where protests are outlawed. But hey, let’s give Cuba another lecture on allowing dissent.
And sure, Cuba isn’t an island paradise but like most things in reality, it’s not entirely good, bad, black, or white. While Cuba has a horrid human rights record, they also have a highly educated society with advanced healthcare for all.
Obama’s opening of relations with Cuba was far from perfect. Trump promised to roll back our diplomacy toward Cuba, and what he did Friday didn’t exactly do all of that. We still have an embassy there. Americans can still travel to Cuba, but with restrictions. Cuban-Americans can still send cash to relatives in Cuba. The nation remains off the list of state sponsors of terror.
The biggest change in policy is that Americans who travel to Cuba can not stay in a hotel, eat in a restaurant, or see a show that is majority owned by the government. They can only give their business to privately-owned enterprises and they must remain a part of tour groups. To maintain compliance, Americans must provide receipts of their expenses and diaries (dear diary, this sucked) to the U.S. Treasury Department. I’m not sure what the punishment will be if they disobey. Maybe they’ll be sent to Saudi Arabia for flogging.
Basically, if you want to travel to Cuba the easiest way will be on a cruise ship which will prevent you from actually seeing Cuba.
One big non-change is Obama’s policy to Cuban refugees. For decades, we had a “wet foot/dry foot” policy toward Cuban refugees. The policy allowed undocumented Cuban migrants who reached dry land to stay in the U.S. as legal residents. If you survived the ocean, dehydration, sunburn, heatstroke, the U.S. Coast Guard, and sharks, to reach a Florida beach, you could stay. Obama eliminated that policy and Trump hasn’t changed it (keeping with his policy of not liking brown people entering our nation).
Republicans cater to Cuban-Americans in Florida as they tend to vote heavily for the GOP. While Trump lost Miami-Dade County to Hillary Clinton by nearly 30%, he received almost 334,000 votes in the county, nearly all from Cuban-American Republicans, who account for 72 percent of the GOP rolls in Miami-Dade. Trump barely won Florida by 1.2%. For that, he can thank Cuban-Americans. Their reward is more talk than promises kept by Trump. Being that they are Trump-voting Republicans, they will fall for it.
The same Trump supporters who cheer his new policy toward the tyrants in Cuba also applaud his sword dance with Arab monarchies that deny women the right to vote and drive. While the King of Saudi Arabia holds Trump’s hand, Trump supporters ignore those he cuts off.
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