Horowitz: Trump Takes Us Backward on Cuba

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

 

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Rob Horowitz

President Trump’s decision, to put back in place some of the commercial and travel restrictions that were done away with by President Obama as part of his effort to forge a new and constructive era of US-Cuban relations is a step backwards. Trump announced the policy change this past Friday in front of an aging group of hard core anti-Castro activists in Miami’s Little Havana.  

Specifically, the Trump executive order prevents Americans and American companies from doing business with any part of the Cuban economy that is controlled by the government, military or intelligence services- which remains about 80% of the economy. including the tourist sector---and bans individuals from planning and executing their own travel in Cuba, restoring the provision that all travel be conducted through officially authorized education tours.   

Trump did not make a complete break with the Obama policies towards Cuba, leaving in place diplomatic relations and some new economic arrangements. Still, this policy shift moves us back toward the return of the failed and outdated policy of attempting to economically isolate the Communist state—a policy that we tried for 54 years without any success.  During that time period we normalized relations with other Communist nations, including China and Vietnam, but our policy for Cuba, a vestige of the Cold War, which ended more than 25 years ago, remained in place largely because of the disproportionate influence of the first generation of Cuban Americans who fled Cuba in the wake of the revolution and settled in large numbers in South Florida .

Fiercely anti-Castro, strategically located in an important swing state, historically overwhelmingly Republican in voting preference and always willing to contribute in large amounts to favored candidates and causes, this resourceful, entrepreneurial and successful generation of Cuban immigrants  amassed political power far exceeding their small share of the overall US population.  

It was this now aging generation of Cubans that by and large voted for President Trump in large measure due to his pledge to roll back the Obama opening to Cuba. His strong support from this cohort was one of the keys to his Florida victory. Politically, however, Trump is betting on the past more than the future. As a second generation of Cubans mainly born in the United States, however, comes of age and mortality takes its inevitable toll on the founding generation, attitudes in the Cuban community have shifted markedly with  a majority of younger Cuban-Americans supporting economic and diplomatic engagement with Cuba. Additionally, the Obama Administration’s Cuba policies are popular in the nation as a whole, supported by the overwhelming majority of the American people and by even larger majorities in Latin America, according to public opinion polling.

More importantly, Trump is rolling back policies that were achieving results, beginning to widen the Cuban private sector and bringing about an increase in online connectivity. His ill-advised actions puts at risk productive investments by American businesses that are already well-underway—ones that could be wins for both nations. That is why The U.S. Chamber of Commerce  opposed Trump’s decision, issuing a statement saying "today’s moves actually limit the possibility for positive change on the island.”

President Trump’s actions are particularly ill-timed, coming in the wake of Raul Castro’s announcement that he will be stepping down in 2018. His likely successor appears to be more market oriented and the best guess is that he will speed up the pace of reform. While Cuba is taking steps to move into the future, Trump is returning the United States to the failed policies of the past.

At this decisive point in Cuban history, American economic engagement and active diplomacy, opening up markets and creating incentives for reforms is all the more important and the stale and bellicose Cold War rhetoric that accompanied the President’s announcement is all the more irrelevant and counter-productive.

But President Trump will have an opportunity for a course correction. The one silver lining is the coming change of leadership in Cuba could provide Trump with the political cover he may feel he needs to put American-Cuban relations back on track and undo some of the damage he has just done. As an optimist, I hold out some hope for this eventuality.  

 

Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.

 

Related Slideshow: RI Democrats React to Trump Withdrawing from Paris Climate Agreement

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Gina Raimondo

RI Governor

I am deeply disappointed that the President has decided to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement. Republicans and Democrats alike recognize that the Paris Agreement is about so much more than climate change. It’s about opportunity, stewardship and America’s standing as a global leader. 

President Trump’s action will not deter Rhode Island from taking necessary steps to address climate change. Our action at the state level will create new jobs and attract new investment in the green economy. 

We’ve set a goal to secure 1,000 MW of clean energy resources and double the number of clean energy jobs by 2020. Ocean State families and businesses are on the front lines fighting climate change. I will continue toward with the General Assembly and partners in other states to protect our environment and advance clean energy alternatives, while creating new opportunities for our workforce in the process. 

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Jim Langevin 

U.S. Congressman

President Trump’s ill-considered decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement puts the future of our entire planet at risk. The withdrawal represents an abandonment of pledges to protect our environment and risks undermining the entire accord, which includes nearly every country on earth. In addition, the President’s action cedes Unites States leadership and means losing a seat at the table to negotiate global agreements in our country's best interest.

The Obama Administration made significant progress toward slowing the rapidly warming climate by negotiating the Paris Climate Agreement to reduce greenhouse emissions on a global scale. Unwinding these commitments represents another assault by President Trump on the health of the public and the planet. His Administration continues to deny climate change despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that shows this is an ongoing human-caused crisis.

Rhode Island is on the front lines of sea level rise, and our citizens will ultimately pay the price for inaction today. Communities like my hometown of Warwick are particularly vulnerable to the storms and floods that come with climate change. Warming seas have chased our traditional catch out of our fisheries and threaten to decimate our beloved Ocean State coastline. Abandoning the Paris deal, the culmination of a multi-year effort by world leaders, is an abdication of our responsibility to leave the world a better place for our children.”

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Sheldon Whitehouse

U.S. Senator

“Donald Trump and his children said just a few years ago that climate change was ‘irrefutable’ and its consequences ‘catastrophic and irreversible.’ They were right. There is no denying the growing threat of rising seas, warming global temperatures, and melting glaciers and ice sheets. 

But we can still avoid the worst if we quickly reduce carbon emissions. That is why ignoring reality and leaving the Paris Agreement could do down as one of the worst foreign policy blunders in our nation’s history, isolating the U.S. further after Trump’s shockingly bad European trip. 

Trump is betraying the country, in the service of Breitbart fake news, the shameless fossil fuel industry, and the Koch brothers’ climate denial operation. It’s Sad. 

America’s biggest corporations and investors urged the President to stick with international efforts to address the climate threat. They and all of us will now have to proceed with a seriousness of purpose commensurate with the threat, knowing of this President’s grave defects. 

If you haven’t joined an environmental group, join one. If your voice needs to be heard, get active. If you are a big corporation with good climate policies that has shied away from engaging politically, it’s time to engage. And if you’re a university that teaches climate science, it’s time to stand up for your scientists. Whoever you are, help end climate denial and take action.”

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Jack Reed

U.S. Senator

“President Trump’s decision to abandon the Paris climate agreement is a blow to the environment that makes us a less secure nation. Our military, which spends every hour of every day thinking about how to protect Americans says climate change is a problem and a real threat multiplier. Indeed, climate change is an established part of the military’s threat and risk assessments.

The United States should continue to be a leader when it comes to protecting the planet; instead, the President is abdicating this responsibility. President Trump is unwisely putting the United States alongside Syria and Nicaragua in declining to be part of the Paris agreement. 

The American people deserve better.” 

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David Cicilline

U.S. Congressman

The President’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement is a terrible mistake. It will diminish American leadership in the world, undermine our ability to create good-paying jobs, and contribute to the further degradation of our environment. 

It is very disappointing that we now know, without question, that the President of the United Sates is a climate change denier. His decision today ignores the overwhelming scientific consensus regarding the serious consequences failing to address climate change. 

The only thing President Trump will accomplish by this decision is to set the United States and world back decades in this fight. I have no doubt that future generations are going to wonder what the hell we were thinking today”

 
 

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