Cuba has lashed out at US President Donald Trump for reinstating the anti-Havana travel and economic restrictions eased by the former Washington administration, decrying the measure as a “return to the coercive methods of the past.”
“The government of Cuba denounces the new measures toughening the embargo” imposed since 1962, said a statement read out on state television on Friday.
Earlier in the day, Trump said he was “cancelling the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba” in yet another attempt to roll back the legacy of his predecessor, Barack Obama.
Obama spent two years to improve relations with Cuba.
In 2014, the then US head of state announced the reopening of the American embassy in Havana, which was shut down in 1961.
The restoration of ties eased travel restrictions against Cuba, enabling businesses, including the tourism and food industries, to engage in commercial deals.
Obama also became the first sitting US president to pay a visit to the South American country in over 50 years.
However, during a speech in Little Havana, a Miami neighborhood, the US president said he would keep his campaign promise to reverse Obama’s policy of engagement with Cuba.
Trump slammed the ex-administration for turning a blind eye to what he called Cuba’s rights violations and said “the previous administration’s easing of restrictions of travel and trade does not help the Cuban people. They only enrich the Cuban regime.”
The policy changes announced were partial, but Trump tightened rules for American nationals traveling to Cuba, banned ties with a military-run tourism firm and reaffirmed the existing US trade embargo.
Reacting to Trump’s move in the Friday statement, the government of Cuban President Raul Castro decried the “hostile rhetoric that recalls the time of open confrontation” and “return to the coercive methods of the past.”
Cuba regretted “a reversal in relations between the two countries,” the statement said. “Any strategy to change the political, economic and social system in Cuba, whether through pressure…or through more subtle methods, will be doomed to failure.”
Havana, however, said it was willing to hold “respectful dialog” with Washington.
Venezuela, Bolivia back Cuba
Trump’s policy rollback also drew criticism from Venezuela, which is Cuba’s main ally in the region.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, whose country has also been hit by harsh US economic sanctions, denounced Trump for opening a “new cycle of aggression” against Cuba.
Cuba “is not alone,” Maduro said. “We reject Donald Trump’s declarations against our brother Cuba. It is an offense against Latin America.”
The Venezuelan leader further censured Trump’s speech as “threatening” and “aggressive,” saying it exposed the US president’s “contempt” and “ignorance.”
Venezuelan Foreign Ministry Delcy Rodriguez also voiced solidarity with the Cuban nation via regional blocs, including the ALBA group of leftist nations.
The ALBA group, formally called the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, was founded during the friendship of late revolutionary Venezuelan and Cuban leaders, Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro, in 2004.
“US extremism aspires to cover the planet with misery, violence and death,” the top Venezuelan diplomat said on Twitter.
Bolivia’s President Evo Morales also joined the chorus of condemnations and said “it’s an abuse of power by the US empire not to listen to the whole world’s support against the blockade of Cuba.”
“Instead of asking Cuba to free political prisoners, Trump should expel the criminal politicians sheltered in the USA,” he added.
Mexico also urged Washington and Havana to resolve their differences “via dialog.”