Cuba to President Trump: We need to continue to cooperate and coexist
BY MAUREEN WHITEFIELD
Noting the hostile rhetoric of President Donald Trump in his Miami
speech and saying the United States was in no position to be giving
lessons on human rights, Cuba still extended an olive branch and said it
wanted to continue a dialogue with its neighbor to the north.
"The government of Cuba reiterates its willingness to continue a
respectful dialogue and cooperation on themes of mutual interest, as
well as negotiations on pending bilateral matters, with the government
of the United States," the Cuba government said in a statement issued
But it also made clear that any U.S. strategy aimed at "changing the
political, economic and social system in Cuba … will be doomed to failure."
During the Obama years, the statement said, the two countries have shown
that they can "cooperate and coexist in a civilized way, respecting
their differences, and promoting that which benefits both nations and
The statement came on the heels of Trump's Friday appearance in Miami
where he slammed Cuba's human rights record and signed a presidential
policy directive on Cuba replacing that of his predecessor Barack Obama.
Although Trump kept in place many important Obama-era elements, such as
reestablishing diplomatic relations, reopening embassies and rescinding
the wet foot, dry foot policy, he did bar most U.S. business dealings
with companies controlled or owned by the Cuban military, made it clear
U.S. travelers to Cuba would be closely monitored to make sure their
trips to the island weren't disguised tourism, and eliminated
individual, educational people-to-people trips to the island by Americans.
U.S. officials see that category as "ripe for abuse" by people who just
want to take beach vacations and engage in tourism instead of the
"purposeful" travel and exchanges with the Cuban people that are allowed.
Cuba denounced these new measures as "hardening the embargo" and said
they would fail.
In measured tones, the Cuban statement noted the changes and said
Trump's announcement went against the wishes of the majority of
Americans who prefer lifting the embargo altogether and supported the
extremist view of a minority of Cuban Americans.
A recent Morning Consult poll found that 65 percent of Americans support
keeping the policy changes put in place since the rapprochement between
the United States and Cuba began on Dec. 17, 2014.
Trump's policy directive used Cuba's continued human rights abuses as a
justification for taking a harder approach in the relationship.
"The Cuba people have long suffered under a Communist regime that
suppresses their legitimate aspirations for freedom and prosperity and
fails to respect their essential human dignity," it said. "In Cuba,
dissidents and peaceful protestors are arbitrarily detained and held in
terrible prison conditions. Violence and intimidation against dissidents
occurs with impunity." It went on to cite other violations of human
rights and civil liberties.
Repeatedly chiding Obama's opening toward Cuba, Trump said in the
speech: "You will no longer have to witness the embarrassing spectacle
of an American president doing the wave at a baseball game with a
ruthless dictator." It was a reference to Obama's visit to Cuba in 2016
that ended with him and Cuban leader Raúl Castro attending a baseball game.
Noting Trump's speech "laden with hostile rhetoric," Cuba said the
events in Miami on Friday constituted a "step backwards in the relations
between the two countries."
"The United States is in no condition to give us lessons," the Cuban
statement said. "We have serious worries about the respect for and
guarantees for human rights in that country."
It went on to cite police killings and brutality, racial discrimination,
child labor, high numbers of firearm deaths, a goal of imposing a new
U.S. healthcare system that would leave 23 million Americans without
health insurance, salary inequality between men and women, the
marginalization of refugees and migrants, the desire to wall out the
Mexican neighbors of the United States, and the U.S. withdrawal from the
Paris Agreement on climate change.
Some analysts say Cuba needs to improve its own human rights record, but
that rolling back U.S.-Cuba relations is not the best way to do it.
"It is inexcusable that the Cuban government could be holding anywhere
from 75 to 95 political prisoners," said Jason Marczak, of the Adrienne
Arsht Latin America Center at the Atlantic Council. "But pushing the
Cuban government into the hands of countries like Russia will not lead
to an improvement in human rights. Change comes through engagement."
Source: Cuba to President Trump: We need to continue to cooperate and
coexist | Miami Herald -