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Cuba - US Relations

President Donald Trump on 16 June 2017 began rolling back some of his predecessor's actions that were meant to engage Cuba after more than a half-century of isolation by the United States. The policy goes into effect tomorrow, but the policy directs the creation of new regulations so the actual impact occurs when those regulations go into effect, a senior White House official told reporters on 16 June 2017. The actions tightened travel restrictions for Americans and banned doing business with the island nation's military conglomerate, GAESA, which is estimated to control more than half of the Cuban economy.

President Obama had worked for nearly two years with Castro and others in the Cuban governmentto re-start relations between Cuba and the US, culminating in early 2016 in the first direct flights between the two countries in 50 years and the reopening of embassies. The relaxed regulations introduced by Obama made it easier for Americans to bring products back from Cuba, allowed more access for doctors to work with Cuban researchers on medical investigations and ended the 180-day ban on ships docking at U.S. ports after leaving Cuba. Obama also visited Cuba earlier this year, marking the first time a U.S. president had stepped foot in Cuba since Calvin Coolidge did in 1928.

In a 1999 opinion piece in the Miami Herald, Trump explained why he was unwilling to form partnerships that would allow him to build casino-hotels in the Cuban capital of Havana. "If I formed a joint venture with European partners, I would make millions of dollars. But I'd rather lose those millions than lose my self-respect. I would rather take a financial hit than become a financial backer of one of the world's most-brutal dictators, a man who was once willing to aid in the destruction of my country," Trump said. "To me the embargo question is no question at all," he continued. "Of course, we should keep the embargo in place. We should keep it until Castro is gone."

When Trump was asked early during his presidential run about the United States' warming of relations with Cuba, his response was largely positive. "I think it's fine," Trump told The Daily Caller in a September 2015 interview. "We should have made a better deal, [but] the concept of opening with Cuba 50 years is enough," he said, referencing Washington's longstanding economic and diplomatic sanctions against the socialist country.

President-elect Trump's public stance on the issue has almost completely reversed. Now, when Trump talks about President Barack Obama's efforts to normalize relations with Cuba, it is almost entirely in negative terms. US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said 16 September 2016 that if he was elected, he would reverse all of what he called the "concessions" President Barack Obama made in an effort to normalize relations with Cuba, unless Havana met certain demands. "Those demands will include religious and political freedom for the Cuban people and the freeing of political prisoners," Trump said in Miami, home to a large Cuban population. The real estate billionaire said "We're going to stand with the Cuban people in their fight against communist oppression. We're on the right side. Great people. They are great people. The president's one-sided deal for Cuba and with Cuba, benefits only the Castro regime."

Trump's chief of staff on Sunday said the president-elect is "absolutely" willing to reverse Obama's opening to Cuba. Speaking 2 November 2016 on Fox News Sunday , Reince Priebus said the future of U.S.-Cuba relations depends on whether Havana makes "movement in the right direction" on human rights. "Repression, open markets, freedom of religion, political prisoners these things need to change in order to have open and free relationships," said Priebus. "There's going to have to be some movement from Cuba in order to have a relationship with the United States."

US President-elect Donald Trump threatened to reverse President Barack Obama's warming of relations with Cuba, the clearest indication yet that the historic restoration of ties is under threat. "If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal," Trump said 28 November 2016.

John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, said it would be easy for a Trump administration to eliminate the flights to Cuba, calling them an additional measure of normalcy in an anything-but-normal relationship. Individuals associated with the president-elect, both officially and unofficially, will not be enthusiastic about the resumption of the flights; they will view each flight as a satchel of United States currency traveling on a one-way journey to Cuba with no meaningful measurable return other than to perpetuate abhorrent commercial, economic and political systems, he said.

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