Trump cloud hangs over Cuba – The Hill
President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpGoogle Maps briefly showed Trump Tower as ‘Dump Tower’ in search results Trump knocks ‘defeated’ Dems supporting recount Stein defends recount push after Trump criticism MORE has threatened to reverse President Obama’s efforts to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, but it’s unclear whether the businessman wants to halt commercial flights to the island nation.
Cuba hard-liners in Congress expect Trump to ground flights along with rolling back other regulatory changes. Some experts, however, say it won’t be easy for him to undo some of the changes that have garnered popular and corporate support at home.Major U.S. airlines, which invested significant time and resources competing for a limited number of routes, have already started flying to Cuba. And a number of businesses and hotels have begun popping up on the island in anticipation of a travel boom.
“It’s not going to be easy to all the sudden say, ‘that’s illegal,’ ” said Madeleine Russak, communications director for Engage Cuba.
As part of a push to normalize relations with Cuba, Obama has reopened the embassies in Havana and Washington, removed Cuba from a list of state terror sponsors and changed the U.S. regulatory framework towards Havana.
A major milestone in Obama’s effort was resuming scheduled air service between the U.S. and Cuba for the first time in 50 years.
Commercial flights began taking off in August, with direct flights to Havana — Cuba’s capital and most popular destination — scheduled to start next week.
U.S. tourism to the island is still banned. The new flight routes only open up travel for family visits, official U.S. government business, foreign governments, journalistic activity, professional research, educational activities, religious activities, public performances, humanitarian projects and certain authorized export transactions.
Trump said in September 2015 that opening up Cuba was “fine,” though he thought that we should have gotten a better deal, according to CNN. The real estate mogul also told CNN that he would consider opening a hotel in Cuba.
But Trump took a more hard-line stance when he campaigned in Florida, a critical swing state, a few months ago.
“All of the concessions that Barack ObamaBarack ObamaWill Obama hold fire on Trump? Obama golfing despite cold weather Obama urged Clinton to concede on election night MORE has granted the Castro regime were done with executive order, which means the next president can reverse them. And that is what I will do unless the Castro regime meets our demands,” Trump said.
Trump’s transition team did not return a request for comment about whether he intends to tighten Cuba travel restrictions. The issue was not mentioned in a video of Trump outlining the executive actions he could pursue within his first 100 days in office.
But Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), a vocal opponent of lifting the embargo, told reporters he expects all of Obama’s Cuba policies to be undone, including flights to Cuba. “I expect it to happen pronto,” he said.
Diaz-Balart, like other critics, believes that Cuba travel will enrich the Castro government despite its history of human rights abuses.
He added that it’s easy to travel to Cuba for tourism purposes, because “you just literally have to check off a box” that says otherwise.
“The next administration is going to follow the law. And that’s all that this takes,” he said.