|President Trump at the Manuel Artime Theater with Cuban Americans in June 2017|
The Cuba policy set by your predecessor publicly and clearly on December 17, 2014 has not only not improved relations between the United States and Cuba but endangered the lives of American diplomats. This should not come as a surprise and in fact many, including myself, predicted that the actions taken: freeing a spy who had murdered Americans, removing Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism without cause, and watering down a State Department report on human trafficking to improve Cuba's international standing would only encourage the worse actors and so it has.
American diplomats are being physically harmed in Cuba and according to press accounts the number today stands at 19. Back on June 16, 2017 when you addressed Cuba policy and released the "National Security Presidential Memorandum on Strengthening the Policy of the United States Toward Cuba" that begins by defining what will guide this new policy:
My Administration's policy will be guided by the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States, as well as solidarity with the Cuban people. I will seek to promote a stable, prosperous, and free country for the Cuban people. To that end, we must channel funds toward the Cuban people and away from a regime that has failed to meet the most basic requirements of a free and just society.Mr President you identified the Castro regime for what it is and denounced it for its past crimes in dramatic contrast with your predecessor:
"To the Cuban government, I say: Put an end to the abuse of dissidents. Release the political prisoners. Stop jailing innocent people. Open yourselves to political and economic freedoms. Return the fugitives from American justice -- including the return of the cop-killer Joanne Chesimard. And finally, hand over the Cuban military criminals who shot down and killed four brave members of Brothers to the Rescue who were in unarmed, small, slow civilian planes. (Applause.) Those victims included Mario de la Pena, Jr., and Carlos Costa."Mr. President the Castro regime is a state sponsor of terrorism that has not reformed its ways and you highlighted some of the Cuban dictatorship's bad acts in that same June speech:
The Castro regime has shipped arms to North Korea and fueled chaos in Venezuela. While imprisoning innocents, it has harbored cop killers, hijackers, and terrorists. It has supported human trafficking, forced labor, and exploitation all around the globe. This is the simple truth of the Castro regime. (Applause.) My administration will not hide from it, excuse it, or glamorize it. And we will never, ever be blind to it. We know what's going on and we remember what happened. (Applause.)These words are important but now that American lives are being harmed it is time to take some specific actions to dismantle your predecessor's policy that is still in place. On January 4, 2017 four former U.S. ambassadors made a number of specific requests that I hope will be implemented in light of recent events:
1. Your predecessors "ill-conceived and unlawful executive orders lifting restrictions on doing business with the Castro regime should be included among the other measures that your administration plans to rescind." ... "American policy toward Cuba and elsewhere should be consistent with U.S. law."
2. "The terms of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act of 1996 should be enforced, starting immediately. Tourism, purchases of Cuban goods, and partnering with government entities should be prohibited, in accordance with current U.S. law."
3. The prior administration "sought to appease the Cuban regime by removing Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism and for the most part ceasing any contacts with the democratic opposition. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations apologized to the world body for our country’s supposed use of democracy promotion and human rights in the past as a 'pretext' to meddle in the affairs of other countries." The Cuban dictatorship should be placed back on the list of terror sponsors.
4. "The regime should no longer be allowed to select, and act as paymaster for, the embassy’s local hires. This allows the regime to siphon off a major part of the employees’ wages, and has serious security implications as well.The U.S. should insist on strict reciprocity in how its embassy in Havana and Cuba’s in Washington are run, based on international standards and practices."
5. Cuba today has been described as an occupying force in Venezuela with at least 15,000 personnel of the Castro regime doing all they can to consolidate a totalitarian, Marxist Leninist dictatorship in Venezuela. This runs counter to the interests not just of the United States, but of all democracies in the region and Venezuelans.
6. The holdovers at the State Department from the previous Administration need to be replaced as soon as possible with sound personnel who share your vision for Latin America.Maintaining the present policy established by the previous administration is harming the lives of American diplomats and needs to be dismantled as soon as possible. As you stated it is time to adopt a policy approach based "in a principled realism, rooted in our values, shared interests, and common sense."
The Castro regime has a record of attacking and mistreating diplomats stationed in Cuba. Common sense dictates viewing them as hostile not only to American interests but also American lives and security precautions taken to ensure the physical safety of diplomats and their families stationed in Cuba.
June 16, 2017 was a good first step but time is of the essence and the lives of Americans are being harmed. It is time to follow though Mr. President and dismantle your predecessors failed policy in favor of one rooted in American values, principled realism and common sense.