Frosty again


Donald Trump (Photo: AFP)

Little Havana, so-called, in Miami is a long way from Cuba, and not merely in terms of distance. Yet on Saturday Donald Trump chose this place, where Cuban-Americans are predominant, to evaluate what he called the “worsening human rights situation on the island”.

He stopped short of specifying whether conditions under Raul Castro have indeed worsened since Barack Obama left office and he took over. Nonetheless, he was engaged in an exercise to turn the clock back when forward movement is generally the praxis of contemporary international relations.

Rather than buttress the progress that his predecessor had achieved through a momentous mending of fences with Cuba in 2014 ~ followed by a historic visit in 2015 ~ President Trump seems intent on reviving the frosty ties between the US and Fidel Castro’s Cuba, verily the striking feature of the Cold War. President Obama’s initiative had relegated that phase to the footnotes.

And yet as on a range of other issues, pre-eminently Obama’s agenda on climate change and public health, Trump has jettisoned the legacy that was bequeathed. His announcement has already been questioned by a section of the Republicans, let alone the Democrats.

Without question, it appears to be an instance of ideologically-driven foreign policy, just as communal prejudice is at the core of the out-of-bounds imprimatur to citizens of six Muslim countries. He has announced a partial rollback of his predecessor’s rapprochement with Cuba, tightening travel and trade rules.

 Trump was obviously playing to the Cuban-American gallery with the remark: “The outcome of the last administration’s executive order has been only more oppression. I am cancelling the completely one-sided deal with Cuba. I am announcing a new policy, just as I promised in the campaign.” On the surface, he has kept his promise for whatever it is worth.

There is little doubt though that he has proceeded from conclusion to premise, and his perception will remain a matter of subjective reflection for some time yet. President Trump has crafted a retrograde chapter both in terms of modern-day diplomacy and the general trend towards burial of ideology.

Markedly, Cuba has couched its condemnation of Trump’s “hostile rhetoric” with an expression of its willingness to hold what it calls “respectful dialogue” with Washington. Profound will be the economic impact of the new policy, when implemented.

It will restrict US business with companies linked to the army and intelligence organisations, most importantly the army-owned Grupo de Administración Empresarial (GAESA), which has wide holdings across the Cuban economy.

The restrictions on travel are bound to impinge on the tourism industry, the bedrock of the country’s economy. Cuba needs international solidarity.

Trump has reversed the process.

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