US President Donald Trump says he is canceling a “one-sided” US deal with Cuba by imposing travel and trade restrictions on the island nation, claiming that former President Barack Obama’s approach on the country has allowed the Cuban government to benefit from increased tourism.
Speaking to Cuban-American exiles in Miami, Florida, on Friday, Trump ordered tighter restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba and a clampdown on US businessmen doing business with companies allegedly controlled by the Cuban military.
“Effective immediately, I am canceling the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba”, Trump said in Miami’s Little Havana on Friday. “Our policy will seek a much better deal for the Cuban people and the USA.”
There will be no lifting of US sanctions against Cuba “until all political prisoners are free, freedom of expression and assembly are respected, all political parties are legalized, and free and internationally supervised elections are scheduled,” Trump declared.
Trump called Raul Castro’s government “brutal” and vowed to restore “freedom” to the island nation. “With God’s help a free Cuba is what we will soon achieve,” he said.
“It is best for America to have freedom in its hemisphere whether in Cuba or Venezuela,” he added.
“We will not be silent in the face of communist oppression any longer,” Trump told the Cuban-American crowd, including Cuban-American Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who helped create the new restrictions on Cuba.
Meanwhile, the White House announced plans to reverse parts of Obama’s historic restoration of ties with the Latin American country after a 2014 diplomatic breakthrough between the two former Cold War foes.
However, the Trump administration left many of Obama’s initiatives, including the reopened US embassy in Havana, in place.
The Trump administration had put the Cuba policy under review upon taking office earlier this year.
During last year’s presidential campaign, Trump threatened to “terminate” deals that the Obama administration made with Cuba.
Obama worked to enact several changes to Cuban policy during his tenure in the White House. He re-established diplomatic relations with Havana in 2015 and loosened some restrictions on doing business in the country.
Obama also gave illegal immigrants from Cuba a path to legal status and opened travel to the island nation.
Despite Obama’s effort to improve ties, the Republican-dominated Congress has refused to lift Washington’s 57-year-old embargo against Havana, which makes it illegal for US corporations to do business with Cuba.
The United States broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961 and placed an official embargo against the country in 1962.
The two countries became ideological foes soon after the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power and their ties remained hostile even after the end of the Cold War.