Trump May Make It Harder To Travel To Cuba – And Send Remittances
Donald Trump becomes President on Friday – and now here we wait to see how he plans to keep his pledge to roll back normalized relations with Cuba.
In recent weeks his transition team has reached out to Cuban-Americans in South Florida for conversations about U.S.-Cuba policy. One of them is Andy Gomez, a former senior fellow at the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies. Gomez spoke with WLRN’s Tim Padgett this week about his sense of what’s coming on Cuba.
Andy, after listening to the transition team, how important is Cuba to the incoming administration?
Well, realistically, we in South Florida like to think Cuba is always at the top of the list in Washington. What I hear is, given all the issues around the world this incoming administration will have to face immediately, Cuba is not even among the top 100 issues that they’re looking at right now. Unfortunately for us.
That said, what do you sense might be some of the more significant steps Donald Trump is set to take regarding Cuba policy?
Based on what I'm hearing from the transition team, the Trump Administration will absolutely make it harder for Americans to visit Cuba - and roll back the remittances Cuban-Americans can send to the island – until the Cubans come to the table with something concrete. –Andy Gomez
Donald Trump is going to address all foreign policy with a very firm hand. Particularly on Cuba, the question that has been asked is, What have we gained from Cuba in the last two years-plus since we established diplomatic relations – and they think very little. If there is one thing from my point of view, as I discussed with them, at least there is an open line of communications.
But I don’t think they’ll continue these discussions that have been going on, on a regular basis, between Washington and Havana. They think we’re going to have to push back – to see if Cuba might be willing to come to the table on more serious issues.
So having said that: Remittances, you know, that used to be $300 and President Obama changed all that and made it unlimited now? Possibly that’s going to be looked at very carefully – and it might even be reduced.
So Cubans here would no longer be able to send an unlimited amount of remittances to the island?
That’s what I hear.
And they'll will be rolled back to $300 per year?
They haven’t set a figure yet. It might be $300 – it might be less. But it’s not going to be more.
I would assume that would also include the amount of travel that Cuban-Americans can make to Cuba. Is that a political risk for Trump? Allowing unlimited travel and remittances was one of the more popular moves that President Obama made in the Cuban-American community in South Florida, for example.
Yes, there is a political risk. And their idea here – which I don’t completely agree with, Tim, based on what has happened in the past – is that if you create social pressure within the island by cutting down additional help from the Americans, there could be the possibility of social instability and millions of people out in the street protesting and demanding. I don’t see that happening in Cuba. I think it’s very unrealistic.
So you do think we will see the Trump Administration make it harder for Americans to visit Cuba?
Absolutely – until the Cubans come to the table with something concrete. And let me tell you what I think that issue might be. If the Cubans are willing to develop a long-term plan to repay American companies that had their properties confiscated when the 1959 revolution came into play, I think that will attract, as I am told, the Trump Administration to say, OK, let’s now move forward.
Another issue, as you know very well, is human rights. I mean, repression under Raúl Castro has actually been worse than it was under Fidel Castro during the last five years of his rule.
Or at least in terms of short-term jail detentions.
But you also mentioned that you see them rushing to reverse many of the business executive orders Obama made on Cuba.
I think they will. But they’re going to be very careful not to step on or violate any contracts that are already in place.
For example, the Starwood hotel corporation – they have an agreement with the Cuban government, so does Google, to operate in Cuba. If we cancel the executive order that allows them to do that, we’re cancelling their contract with the Cuban government. Is the American government then responsible for paying Starwood the amount that that contract was worth? You know, those issues will have to be looked at very carefully.