A group of 14 Democratic senators led by Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar sent a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Monday urging the Trump administration not to roll back strides in normalizing relations with Cuba made during the last two years of the Obama administration.
“A majority of the American people support engagement with Cuba,” the senators wrote. “American business leaders and farmers deserve a fair shot to compete in a market just 90 miles from our shores. We urge you to build on the economic, political, and national security progress we have made thus far by expanding, not retracting, engagement with Cuba.”
On Friday, President Trump is expected to make an appearance in Miami to announce reversals to several of the Obama administration’s policies that eased business and travel restrictions with Cuba. Although a time and location for the announcement has not yet been officially announced, a White House spokesperson told the Miami Herald that the Manuel Artime Theater in the city’s Little Havana neighborhood is one of the locations under consideration.
While it’s still not clear what Trump’s Cuba policy will be, various experts say he will likely impose tighter restrictions on travel to the island and U.S. companies signing deals with Cuban companies linked to the military. It’s unlikely he will cut off diplomatic relations with Havana and reinstate the “wet foot, dry foot” policy, which allowed Cubans who set foot on U.S. soil to become permanent residents.
Tillerson, for his part, hinted Tuesday that the administration’s new policy will focus on human rights. He also said the Obama administration’s policies inadvertently provided financial support to the Castro government.
“If we’re going to sustain the sunny side of this relationship, Cuba must, absolutely must, address these human rights challenges,” Tillerson told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at a hearing on the State Department’s budget.
If the Trump administration decides to tighten sanctions on Cuba, it would work against the goals of two recently reintroduced bipartisan Senate bills to loosen trade and travel restrictions. Many of the senators who signed Monday’s letter are co-sponsors on the Freedom to Export to Cuba Act of 2017 and the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act of 2017.