If there’s one thing I’m actually very happy with about President Trump, it’s his mostly consistent message on human rights. While President Obama talked the talk and did his liberal virtue signaling thing on freedom and basic human rights, he was woeful on walking the walk–most liberals are because of their confusion on mutually-exclusive “intersectional” causes. (For example: Islamophobia and transphobia, or women’s rights and Palestinian activism.)
Trump has no such confusion. He deals with China, and tells them to their faces that they’ve got an abysmal problem with freedom. He admires Vladimir Putin while recognizing that his kind of “leadership” carries with it some terrible costs in personal freedom.
When it’s necessary, Trump takes on the brutal dictators and doesn’t let them off the hook with platitudes. He’s done it with Mahmoud Abbas (after naïvely believing the PA isn’t paying and raising up terrorists). He’s done it with the UN through Ambassador Nikki Haley.
And now he’s sending a message to Cuba, dialing back some of the dictator-love Obama showed to the brutal Castro regime. Good.
Trump will sign a directive requiring the Commerce and Treasury departments to issue regulations spelling out the travel and business restrictions. Enforcement will take effect once the regulations are finalized. For example, someone heading to Cuba next week on an individual people-to-people visit and self-certifying that it is for educational reasons could still go.
The new regulations will end these individual person-to-person trips and require travelers who meet other categories of allowable travel to keep detailed records. Eliminating the individual travel category is designed to reduce the likelihood of tourism travel — a type of economic activity banned by the U.S. embargo and a combination of sanctions against Cuba, the officials said. The travel records would be subject to federal audits.
These changes aren’t just to punish Cuba. They are specifically to push the Cuban regime to make real changes.
- Deny U.S. dollars to the Cuban government.
- Increase pressure on President Raul Castro to end human rights abuse.
- Allow free elections.
- Free Cuban political prisoners.
- Return U.S. fugitives to the homeland.
- Institute changes that will convert the government-run economy to one dominated by private businesses operated by Cuban citizens.
The U.S. embassy in Havana and Cuba’s Washington embassy will remain open.
This is probably the best of both worlds. Complete disassociation with Cuba didn’t accomplish anything for 50-plus years. Now that they’ve had a taste of American tourists and cruise ships once again, maybe they’ll have an incentive to take some active steps–if baby steps.
Sen. Marco Rubio, who had input into the new proposed rules, agrees.
“All the pressure comes from American business interests that go to Cuba, see the opportunities and then come back here and lobby us to lift the embargo,” Rubio told the [Miami] Herald. “I’m trying to reverse the dynamic: I’m trying to create a Cuban business sector that now goes to the Cuban government and pressures them to create changes. I’m also trying to create a burgeoning business class independent of the government.”
Around the world, engaging on business, being direct with political leaders and dictators, while maintaining a pro-human-rights stance is one of the best things I’ve seen about this frequently-self-hobbled administration. Keep it up.