POLITICS

Trump says Obama's Cuba policy is 'fine,' but U.S. should have got a 'better deal'

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 03:  GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump speaks at a news conference in Manhattan after he signed a pledge Thursday to support the Republican nominee in the 2016 general election, ruling out a third-party or independent run on September 3, 2015 in New York City. Trump made the announcement following a meeting with  Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus. Trump stressed repeatedly in the news conference that he is leading in all national polls.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 03: GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump speaks at a news conference in Manhattan after he signed a pledge Thursday to support the Republican nominee in the 2016 general election, ruling out a third-party or independent run on September 3, 2015 in New York City. Trump made the announcement following a meeting with Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus. Trump stressed repeatedly in the news conference that he is leading in all national polls. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)  (2015 Getty Images)

Donald Trump bucked overall Republican sentiment earlier this week when he said that he approved of President Barack Obama opening up relations with Cuba, although he did add that the U.S. should have made a "stronger deal."

In a wide-ranging interview with conservative news site The Daily Caller, the billionaire businessman said that 50 years of icy relations between Washington and Havana was enough but that the U.S. should have gotten more out of the "deal" with Cuba. The Republican presidential candidate did not elaborate on what a "stronger deal" would entail or go into detail about what he would have done if he were president.

"I think it's fine," Trump told The Daily Caller. "I think it's fine, but we should have made a better deal. The concept of opening with Cuba — 50 years is enough — the concept of opening with Cuba is fine. I think we should have made a stronger deal."

While Trump's comments about Cuba were vague – and only one part of an interview that touched on topics ranging from the use of nuclear weapons to the mogul once renting an apartment to former Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi – his feelings on the historic renewal of relations between the U.S. and Cuba back in December differs greatly from those of his fellow Republican candidates.

While the majority of GOP candidates have spoken out against the renewal of relations with Cuba barring any changes to the human rights situation on the island, few have been more outspoken than those candidates of Cuban descent or have held office in the Cuban-American stronghold of Florida.

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Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American senator from Florida, has been one of the most vocal critics of Obama's Cuban policy, calling it evidence of "every flawed strategic, moral and economic notion" that has driven his foreign policy.

"He has been quick to deal with the oppressors, but slow to deal with the oppressed," Rubio said last month during a speech at the conservative-leaning Foreign Policy Initiative in New York. "And his excuses are paper-thin."

A member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Rubio has made foreign policy a centerpiece of his campaign for president. He has pledged to "roll back" what he termed Obama's "concessions" to Cuba and the recently completed nuclear deal with Iran, and he says he will "repair the damage done to America's standing in the Middle East."

Rubio says he would demand that the Cuban government carry out political and human rights reforms to maintain diplomatic relations and would return the country to the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism until it stops "helping North Korea evade international sanctions" and "harboring fugitives from American justice."

Rubio's fellow presidential candidate of Cuban descent, Ted Cruz has also spoken vehemently against the Cuba deal – calling Obama's move "unacceptable and a slap in the face of a close ally." His comment referenced the fact that the U.S. has an embassy in Havana, but not one in the disputed Israeli capital of Jerusalem.  

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush also railed against Cuba's removal from the list of state sponsors of terrorism — continuing his hardline stance against the continuing normalization of relations between Washington and Havana.

"Neither continued repression at home nor Cuba's destabilizing activities abroad appear sufficient to stop President Obama from making further concessions to the Communist regime in Havana," Bush said in a statement

The Obama administration has said it is normalizing ties with Cuba after more than 50 years of hostility failed to shake the communist government's hold on power. It argues that dealing directly with Cuba over issues including human rights and trade is far likelier to produce democratic and free-market reforms over the long term.

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