POLITICS

Trump to scrap U.S. deal with Cuba unless Havana agrees to improve terms

President-elect Donald Trump on November 22, 2016 in New York City.

President-elect Donald Trump on November 22, 2016 in New York City.  (2016 Getty Images)

When president-elects hire people for their transition teams, Washington pundits often scramble to decipher what the announcements mean about the next administration’s intentions.

With the appointment last week of Mauricio Claver-Carone, an outspoken advocate for keeping the economic embargo against Cuba, President-elect Donald Trump made himself quite clear about the general path his administration will be taking in regard to the Communist island and U.S. longtime foe.

But on Monday, as Miami and other cities continued to celebrate the passing of Cuban leader Fidel Castro at age 90, Trump spelled it out: He will scrap the "deal" with Cuba unless Havana improves the terms of the agreement, he wrote on Twitter.

"If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban-American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate [the] deal," Trump posted.

During the primaries, Trump was the only Republican candidate to support Barack Obama’s efforts to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba, but he changed his position just before the election, mindful of the Cuban-American vote in Florida.

The common wisdom has long held that Trump would favor the business possibilities of normalized relations with Cuba over the Cold War mindset that has locked the U.S. into maintaining an economic blockade of the island since 1962.

In March, he told CNN that he would consider opening a hotel in Cuba. "Maybe it won't work out, but I will tell you, I think Cuba has a certain potential, and I think it's OK to bring Cuba into the fold."

On the campaign trail in Florida in September, however, he stressed the one-sidedness of the agreement, pointing out that "all of the concessions that Barack Obama has granted the Castro regime were done with executive order, which means the next president can reverse them. And that is what I will do unless the Castro regime meets our demands."

The former U.S. ambassador to Venezuela, Otto Reich, told the Nuevo Herald that Claver-Carone's hiring “is a clear signal … that the president-elect will carry out the promise he made to the Cuban-American community.”

Claver-Carone is the executive director of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy Political Action Committee (USCD PAC) and Cuba Democracy Advocates.

Reich also suggested that Claver-Carone could end up with a position in the new administration. “In my opinion, not many other people know as much about Obama's mistakes on Cuba policy, and how to change them, as Mauricio,” he said.

President Barack Obama and his Cuban counterpart, Raúl Castro, announced on Dec. 17, 2014, that they planned to normalize relations after a rupture of more than five decades. In July of the following year, the countries reopened embassies in each other’s capitals.

Trump also took to Twitter over the weekend to make his views on Fidel Castro clear after the former Cuban president's death on Friday night at age 90.

Trump's first reaction was a brief tweet Saturday morning that simply read "Fidel Castro is dead!"

Later, the president-elect released a longer statement, saying that he hoped the death of the "brutal dictator" would usher in a new era of prosperity and freedom for the Caribbean island.

Trumped described Castro as a "brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades."

"Fidel Castro's legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights," the real-estate mogul said.

"While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve," Trump said.

Includes reporting by EFE.

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