President Donald Trump is set to announce a rollback of former President Barack Obama’s policies toward Cuba, The Daily Caller has learned.
Two sources told TheDC that the development is due to the behind-the-scenes efforts of Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Democratic New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez and Republican Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.
This information coming from an anti-embargo group, which spoke on the condition of anonymity, was confirmed Sunday by John Kavulich of the nonpartisan U.S. – Cuba Trade and Economic Council. “The Trump Administration has been ‘ready’ since February 2017 to announce changes, but issues unrelated to Cuba have intervened,” Kavulich said.
Former President Obama worked to enact several changes to Cuban policy during his tenure in office. He ended the policy known as “wet foot, dry foot” that gave Cuban illegal immigrants a path to legal status, opened travel to the island nation, re-established diplomatic relations and loosened restrictions on doing business in the country.
These moves were applauded along bipartisan lines, but Cuban hardliners weren’t pleased. Trump himself has been on both sides of the issue. He told TheDC in 2015 that the “concept of opening with Cuba is fine,” but on the campaign trail he threatened to “terminate” deals that the Obama administration made with Cuba.
The campaign trail rhetoric carried over into the administration, as Trump said in a February press conference that he has “very similar views” on Cuba as Sen. Rubio.
His administration launched a “full review” of Cuban policy, and White House press secretary Sean Spicer told TheDC Sunday that there “are no updates on this issue at this time.”
Rubio and Rep. Diaz-Balart, however, have been publicly confident that Trump will bring back hardline policies against Cuba. The National Journal reported Wednesday that Diaz-Balart said he is “1,000 percent sure the president is going to deliver on his commitment.”
“I have no doubt that you’re going to see in short order a different policy,” the Cuban-American legislator added. Rubio tweeted in March that he is “quite confident” Trump will “treat [Cuba] like a dictatorship.”
The Florida senator also told El Nuevo Herald, “We’ve been walking through all these issues with the president and his team, figuring out the right steps to take and when.”
Sen. Menendez has not spoken on the topic since Trump became president, and a spokeswoman told TheDC she is unaware of these concessions from the Trump administration.
Diaz-Balart’s office did not respond to a media inquiry about behind-the-scenes work with the Trump administration, and a Rubio spokesman said he can’t provide TheDC with “anything at this time.”
The anti-embargo group told TheDC that Trump will announce these changes in a June speech in Miami. The White House also refused to confirm or deny this.
Kavulich said that the administration will enact “increased enforcement relating to travel,” and “a focus upon discouraging transactions with entities controlled by the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) of the Republic of Cuba.”
Starwood Hotels & Resorts International currently has a hotel under management that is owned by a company controlled by the FAR, according to Kavulich.
The move to enact stricter policies toward Cuba will likely land the president criticism from several of his Republican colleagues. A bill introduced by Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake Thursday to remove all travel restrictions with Cuba has nine Republican cosponsors.
“Recognizing the inherent right of Americans to travel to Cuba isn’t a concession to dictators, it is an expression of freedom,” Sen. Flake said in a statement. “It is Americans who are penalized by our travel ban, not the Cuban government.”