Andres Oppenheimer: Trump's policy changes will give new ammunition to Cuba's dictatorship – Manhattan Mercury (subscription)

President Trump is right in that the Obama administration’s opening to Cuba failed to produce any human rights or democratic changes on the island, but I’m afraid that Trump’s announcement that he will partially reverse existing policies will backfire.

Trump’s partial reversal of Obama’s opening to Cuba, which he announced with great fanfare in Miami on Friday, includes prohibiting U.S. companies from doing business with companies affiliated with the Cuban military and partial restrictions on U.S. tourism to the island.

On the other hand, Trump did not close down the U.S. embassy in Havana, which Obama re-established in 2015, nor did he cancel U.S. flights and cruises to Cuba. He also maintained Obama’s decision to cancel the wet-foot/dry-foot immigration policy that allowed Cuban refugees automatic asylum if they touched U.S. soil.

But the trouble with that hodge-podge of measures is that even if they don’t end up doing much economic damage to the Cuban dictatorship, they will give Cuba new ammunition to proclaim itself a victim of “U.S. aggression.” They will also give the Cuban regime a new excuse to postpone democratic changes even beyond the end of 86-year-old Cuban President Raul Castro’s term in February 2018.

Unfortunately, neither Obama’s December 2014 opening to Cuba nor Trump’s 2017 partial reversal of that policy were motivated by a desire to bring about democracy in Cuba. In both cases, the decisions were motivated by domestic politics.

In Obama’s case, he was approaching the end of his two terms in office without any major foreign policy victory. Despite his many domestic achievements, he had failed to bring peace to the Middle East and couldn’t stop the Russian invasion of Crimea or the civil war in Syria. He needed a quick and easy foreign policy victory.

Polls showed that most Americans — even many

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