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News Analysis: U.S. president-elect Trump's Cuba policy unknown after death of Fidel Castro

Updated: 11 29 , 2016 14:25
Xinhua Small  Medium  Large Email Print

WASHINGTON, Nov. 28 -- After the death of Cuba's decades-long leader Fidel Castro, it remains unknown what U.S. president-elect Donald Trump's policy toward the island nation will be. The incoming U.S. president may toughen the U.S. stance on the Latin American nation, but he may be softer than others in the GOP, experts said.

Trump is expected to install a cabinet of hardliners, who will take a tougher stance on issues such as terrorism. But it remains unknown what steps he will take toward Cuba after Castro's death.

"Trump has appointed hardliners to his administration so he may well reverse Obama's policies in Cuba unless there are improvements in political and religious freedom. He may seek to negotiate the issues and drive a harder bargain in terms of Cuba opening up its economy," Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Darrell West told Xinhua.

Cuba has repeatedly urged the United Statesto lift the five-decade-long trade embargo against the Island nation.

"Trump could impose new restrictions on travel to Cuba. But he probably will keep the loopholes on educational and cultural travel because that had been in place for a number of years," he said.

"The key thing to watch will be flights to Cuba. That is where the greatest opening took place and it is the ones where companies already have invested the most," West said.

Indeed, in December 2014, in the most sweeping change in U.S.-Cuban relations in five decades, U.S. President Barack Obamaannounced plans to normalize ties with Cuba in a move that has sparked much controversy in the United States.

The move came decades after the U.S. severed ties with Cuba in 1961, shortly after Cuban leader Castro launched a revolution. The two countries had been at loggerheads ever since, with tensions boiling over on a number of occasions.

But the last two years have seen improvements in U.S.-Cuban diplomatic, social and commercial ties, with the U.S. opening an embassy in Cuba, flights from the U.S. to Cuba increasing, and some U.S. businesses expanding into the island nation for the first time in five decades.

"Given the interest from both business and average Americans about improving tourism and trade between Cuba, I could see some symbolic changes to policies-perhaps more scrutiny of reasons for traveling to Cuba-but not a rollback," Dan Mahaffee, an analyst with the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, told Xinhua.

"While Trump has indicated that he would be stricter than Obama on Cuba, he also chose a much more moderate path compared to others in the GOP on continuing to normalize relations with Cuba. If Castro's death serves as a turning point for some of Cuba's political and economic reforms, it may even allow Trump an opportunity to further moderate his stance on Cuba," he said.

"It is worth noting that many in the Cuban American community were for Bush or Rubio, so he may not feel as beholden to that group compared to past GOP presidents," he added, referring to former GOP candidates Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio.

Given Trump's statements that he wants to get out of the way of businesses, tightening the screws on Cuba would be a contradiction to this approach-though it may be a way to hold GOP orthodoxy on this issue, Mahaffee said.

"However his background as a developer of hotels, casinos, and resorts may guide his instincts on this issue in favor of further investment in Cuba," he added.

by Matthew Rusling

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