|President Trump at the Manuel Artime Theater with Cuban Americans in 2017|
Despite the claim by the architect of the previous Administration's Cuba policy, that President Trump's turn around on the Obama Administration's Cuba policy would fail, trade between the United States and Cuba was at its highest level in 2017 following its collapse between 2014 and 2016 when the previous Administration was pushing its new Cuba policy.
U.S. trade in goods with Cuba dropped $118.9 million from $299.1 million in 2014 to $180.2 million in 2015. This economic relationship has improved under the Trump Administration despite news that the Cuban economy is worsening and the regime's creditors are nervous.
|Trade peaked under Bush in 2008 and began a steady decline under Obama|
President Obama downplayed commuting the sentences of three Cuban spies, including Gerardo Hernandez who was serving a life sentence for his role in a murder conspiracy that claimed four innocent lives in 1996 and freed them the same day. This was part of the price paid to free an American hostage, Alan Gross, that had been an impediment to normalized relations.
|President Obama does the wave with Raul Castro at a baseball game in Cuba|
On the human rights front the Obama Administration's new Cuba policy was also a disaster. The suspicious deaths of human rights defenders such as Orlando Zapata Tamayo (2010), Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia (2011), Laura Inés Pollán Toledo (2011), Wilman Villar Mendoza (2012), Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas (2012), and Harold Cepero Escalante (2012) is a terrifying alternative to the long prison sentences that the Castro regime would use to take opposition leaders out of circulation, as was the case in 2003, during the Bush administration.
|Some of the Cubans killed by the Castro regime during the Obama years|
The number of politically motivated arbitrary detentions documented by the Havana based, Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation since 2008 demonstrates a dramatic rise in repression between 2008 and 2016, that spiked dramatically in the year of the Obama Administration's new Cuba policy announcement in 2014 from 6,424 arbitrary detentions in 2013 to 8,899 in 2014. This also occurred with troubling incidents of violence by regime agents.
During President Obama's last year in office the number of arbitrary detentions reached their highest number since 2010 with 9,940 arbitrary detentions. Despite this, on his way out of office in January 2017, President Obama closed the door on Cuban refugees.
Under Trump's first year a dramatic reduction in arbitrary detentions in Cuba
During 2017 there were 5,155 Cubans arbitrarily detained, and although still far too high, it is a dramatic improvement over 2016. There are still prisoners of conscience enduring horrid and dangerous conditions in Cuban prisons and dissenters sent to psychiatric institutions for punishment.
However in the area of religious freedom. Things have gotten worse in Cuba. "From January to December 2017 Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) recorded 325 separate violations of freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) in Cuba. Christians across a wide range of denominations were affected. Many of these cases involved large numbers of victims. By comparison, CSW reported 220 FoRB violations in Cuba in 2014, 180 in 2013, 120 in 2012 and 40 in 2011."
Overall the changes in tone and substance by the current Administration, so far, have been an improvement over the previous failed policy of the prior Administration that scrapped an old policy that was containing the regime, replacing it with one that legitimized the dictatorship, marginalized democrats, and negatively impacted U.S. interests.
The Trump Administration has taken positive steps, with its policy changes on Cuba, but more needs to be done.