Way to go, Miami Republicans. You’re really socking it to engagement in your dreams.
The word that best describes President Donald Trump’s Cuba policy — and the newly issued Treasury Department regulations on travel and trade — is ignorant. But, as with all things Trump, there are many others. The policy and the rules for implementation, released this week as the president frolicked in Communist China, also are schizophrenic and dangerous to the interests of the United States.
Let me count some of the ways:
First, by doing away with the independent people-to-people travel by Americans, the architects of this policy are actually helping the Cuban government control what travelers do, whom they meet, and how their perceptions of the country are shaped, thus becoming enablers of the dictatorship. Yet, tours are the mode of travel endorsed by Trump’s policy — and propagandistic historical tours are one of the activities that prove to the Treasury Department that your travel to Cuba is “educational.”
They must be applauding from Havana because the policy aimed to hurt the government ensures quite a workload for them instead of the fledgling entrepreneurial class, thanks to Trump and the Cuban Americans in Congress who had a hand in pressuring Trump to abandon engagement. Miami’s Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart even used their votes on healthcare to negotiate with Trump on Cuba.
“Taking away people-to-people puts the trips back in the hands of babysitters,” says Maria de los Angeles Torres, a Chicago-based Cuban-American professor who has traveled to Cuba for research and family visits for decades.
The “babysitters” are loyal government employees who shuttle around visitors, be they journalists, professors, humanitarian workers or members of whatever group is touring the island in any of the 12 categories of allowed travel. Trump just expanded their ranks. Jobs!
Pushing organized travel through was a big deal to Rubio, who has never set foot in Cuba.
He insisted in interviews and tweets after Trump came to Little Havana to announce the takedown of President Barack Obama’s engagement policy that the measure would do away with Americans going to the island for frivolous endeavors like sunbathing.
Better to take a dip in the ocean with regular Cubans on a beach away from prying ears than to endure a historical tour through Havana given by a charming Cuban who delivers a hefty dose of propaganda, with no other side represented, and is a state government employee whose job depends on verbosity on behalf of the Revolution.
Tours are organized through Cubanacán, an agency of the Ministry of the Interior, well known for being in charge of state vigilance. In other words, it’s the state security apparatus.
Under Trump policy, the military is not OK, but the goons of MININT who suppress the population make good hosts.
“Are they clueless or do they have a coherent policy of fueling the factional struggle between the army and the ministry’s security services?” asks Torres with on-point sarcasm.
There’s more silly stuff in the policy, like dictating what kind of cola Americans can drink in Cuba: Tukola is fine with Trump, but Tropicola and Cachito are banned. You can continue to bring back rum and cigars for personal consumption, but what about Cuban coffee? I think it’s discriminatory to cater only to drunks and smokers.
Cruise ship travel stays intact because Trump wouldn’t dare mess with that industry. Never mind that passengers are a captive audience of government stores filled with Che Guevara paraphernalia and peddlers who offer government services to people disembarking.
Bottom line is that all travel to Cuba — and any other country in the world — involves dealing with a government entity.
The new regulations prohibit doing business with only some 180 military entities and leaves out all the other countless state-run ones. Now that they can’t hide because the media has exposed the obvious, the Cuban Americans in Congress are upset, suffering from bouts of major disappointment — and blaming Obama still.
“It is clear that individuals within the bureaucracy who support the former administration’s Cuba policy continue to undermine President Trump,” said Diaz-Balart, always the loyal party guy.
Nice try, but this is your Cuba policy, Miami Republicans. You can’t blame Obama now.
Why, it’s almost as if Russia played a hand in Trump’s Cuba policy, too.
The reconfiguration of alliances is so strange these days.
Cubans, who hated Russia and what the superpower did to their country — it helped consolidate a repressive Communist state while sending Cubans into exile — are still goo goo gaga over autocrat Trump. Trump admires the Russians — Vladimir Putin in particular, the strongman vying to return his nation to its glory days who is aggressively pursuing establishing a military base in Cuba, 90 miles from the USA.
You’d think this might be a good time to have lots of Americans running around Cuba, circumventing officialdom and infecting the island with the virus of democracy.
Nothing like showing in Havana — instead of telling people in Little Havana — what it’s like to be free people.