As Trump Prepares Policy Shift, Human Rights Groups Clash with Pro-Cuba Interests

WASHINGTON, DC – President Donald Trump is expected to announce a restructuring of American policy towards Cuba in Florida on Friday.

Observers expect the Trump Cuba policy to roll back some of the measures former President Barack Obama put into place to allow more robust business cooperation with that country’s communist government.

Those rollbacks may include the reinstatement of some travel restrictions for U.S. citizens following a review by the National Security Council, multiple media outlets are reporting.

“Trump is expected to use tough rhetoric against the Cuban government in calling for tightening rules for U.S. travel to the country,” the Washington Examiner reported on Tuesday. “He is also expected to call for blocking commerce with entities that benefit the Cuban military.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday that Obama’s Cuba policy has not changed “the behavior of the regime in Cuba and its treatment of people.”

Tillerson said that, in fact, the communist government may be the biggest benefactor of Obama’s Cuba policy.

Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC) Executive Director Marion Smith said in a statement that she hopes the current administration will impose new restrictions against the communist dictatorship if the Cuban regime does not make the political reforms necessary to improve the lives of its citizens.

“Despite claims that detente with Cuba will lead to new freedoms for the Cuban people, an influx of capital and tourism has only further fueled the Castro government’s repressive policies,” Smith said. “Despite assurances to the contrary, the past two years have witnessed only more government crackdowns and imprisonment of political dissidents and no steps toward improving Cuba’s abysmal human rights record.”

“President Trump should use this opportunity to push the Cuban government to release its political prisoners, allow for dissent, and adhere to international standards on human rights,” Smith said.

The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC) is a Washington-based, non-profit educational and human rights organization with a mission to commemorate the more than 100 million victims of communism around the world and to obtain freedom for those still living under totalitarian regimes.

The number of arbitrary – and often violent – arrests of dissidents in Cuba for their political beliefs skyrocketed following the 2014 announcement from President Obama that he was willing to cooperate with the Castro regime. During Obama’s visit to the island in 2016, the Cuban government arrested nearly 500 people for expressing pro-democratic views in public.

Meanwhile, pro-Cuban government media outlets reporting that lobbying and advocacy groups that benefit from Obama’s policy have placed Trump “under pressure” to maintain “normalization” policies.

“Non-partisan activist group Center for Democracy in the Americas (CDA) has urged the president to rethink his hitherto hard-line stance on America’s former cold war foe, claiming that the cutting of improved relations would do nothing to help Cuban citizens or serve the U.S.’s national interests,” CNBC reported.

“A rollback of recent progress in U.S.-Cuba relations would be out of step with the views of the majority of the American public—both Republican and Democrat—and would threaten the significant gains reaped by the American people and the Cuban people since the restoration of U.S.-Cuba ties,” CDA’s Executive Director Emily Mendrala said on Tuesday.

Trump will make his Cuba policy announcement on Friday in Miami.

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