New White House communications director has traveled to Cuba to scout investment opportunities

The Miami Herald

Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director, has traveled to Cuba several times to explore the possibility of doing business on the island.

Scaramucci, whose appointment on Friday led to the resignation of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, is the founder of the global investment firm SkyBridge Capital. He also is behind the annual SkyBridge Alternatives (SALT) Conference that brings together business and government leaders. In 2016, the conference — for the first time —included a panel on Cuba in which the Cuban-American businessman Hugo Cancio was one of the speakers.

At the offices of OnCuba in Havana, a digital media outlet owned by Cancio, Scaramucci was quoted in an interview published in May 2016 about his idea of ​​creating an “investment fund” for Cuba, adding that, “we are eager to exchange (ideas)… about the best ways in which we can contribute to the development of the country, the services and the quality of life of citizens.”

Scaramucci told OnCuba that he first traveled to the island in 2012.

“When I saw that the U.S. policy of rapprochement was heading to reconciliation and the ease of the embargo, I started to get in touch with people to get an idea of whether it was really possible to implement my projects here,” he said.

On his Facebook page, Scaramucci shared the interview on a May 4, 2016 post and wrote that during his visit to Cuba he “saw a very beautiful country. I am very hopeful for the future of Cuba and excited to welcome the Cubans to the SALT Conference!”

Cancio confirmed that Scaramucci is “a good friend.

“He is a very successful businessman and I hope his new vision will be good for the White House and President Donald Trump,” Cancio said.

Trump recently took steps to tighten U.S. policy toward Cuba and ban business with companies linked to the Cuban military, which controls most of the Cuban economy. It also imposed some limitations on individual travel by Americans to the island and ordered more audits for travelers. However, he did not entirely undo all of the easing of restrictions implemented by former President Obama.

Before taking a harder approach on Cuba, several media outlets, including Newsweek, Bloomberg and the Miami Herald reported the Trump Organization’s interest in doing business with Cuba, even though the U.S. embargo prohibits it.

“I think the situation is oversimplified to one country being capitalist and the Cuban system originating from communism, and as a consequence, there’s an embargo,” Scaramucci said in the interview. “However I think that many Americans would like to get in touch with Cuba and its culture.”

“I have always said that to speak and give an opinion about Cuba, people should travel to the island and be in contact with all kinds of Cubans,” said Cancio, who has served as an adviser for several U.S. companies interested in business on the island. “Anthony has had that opportunity and I hope he can be a new, more calm and coherent voice about Cuba’s past and present.”

“Today I sleep more calmly that there is a person close to Trump who can share that vision stemming from the experience on his visits to Cuba,” he added.

Mary Anastasia O’Grady: Crackdown on Cuba key to peace in Venezuela

The Wall Street Journal

The civilized world wants to end the carnage in Venezuela, but Cuba is the author of the barbarism. Restoring Venezuelan peace will require taking a hard line with Havana.
Step one is a full-throated international denunciation of the Castro regime. Any attempt to avoid that with an “engagement” strategy, like the one former US president Barack Obama introduced, will fail. The result will be more Venezuelas rippling through the hemisphere.
The Venezuelan opposition held its own nationwide referendum on Sunday to document support for regularly scheduled elections that have been cancelled and widespread disapproval of strongman Nicolas Maduro’s plan to rewrite the constitution.
The regime was not worried. It said it was using the day as a trial run to prepare for the July 30 elections to choose the assembly that will draft the new constitution.
The referendum was an act of national bravery. Yet like the rest of the opposition’s strategy — which aims at dislodging the dictatorship with peaceful acts of civil disobedience — it’s not likely to work. That’s because Cubans, not Venezuelans, control the levers of power.
Havana doesn’t care about Venezuelan poverty or famine or whether the regime is unpopular. It has spent a half-century sowing its ideological “revolution” in South America. It needs Venezuela as a corridor to run Colombian cocaine to the US and to Africa to supply Europe. It also relies on cut-rate Venezuelan petroleum.
To keep its hold on Venezuela, Cuba has embedded a Soviet-style security apparatus. In a July 13 column, titled “Cubazuela” for the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba website, Roberto Alvarez Quinones reported that in Venezuela today there are almost 50 high-ranking Cuban military officers, 4500 Cuban soldiers in nine battalions, and “34,000 doctors and health professionals with orders to defend the tyranny with arms”. Cuba’s Interior Ministry provides Maduro’s personal security. “Thousands of other Cubans hold key positions of the state, government, military and repressive Venezuelan forces, in particular intelligence and counter-intelligence services.”
Every Venezuelan armed-forces commander has at least one Cuban minder, if not more, a source close to the military told me. Soldiers complain that if they so much as mention regime shortcomings over a beer at a bar, their superiors know about it the next day. On July 6, Reuters reported that since the beginning of April “nearly 30 members of the military have been detained for deserting or abandoning their post and almost 40 for rebellion, treason, or insubordination”.
The idea of using civilian thugs to beat up Venezuelan protesters comes from Havana, as Cuban-born author Carlos Alberto Montaner explained in a recent El Nuevo Herald column, “Venezuela at the Edge of the Abyss.” Castro used them in the 1950s, when he was opposing Batista, to intimidate his allies who disagreed with his strategy. Today in Cuba they remain standard fare to carry out “acts of repudiation” against dissidents.
The July 8 decision to move political prisoner Leopoldo Lopez from the Ramo Verde military prison to house arrest was classic Castro. Far from being a sign of regime weakness, it demonstrates Havana’s mastery of misdirection to defuse criticism.
Cuba’s poisonous influence in Latin America could be weakened if the international community spoke with one voice. The regime needs foreign apologists like former Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and the leftist wing of the Vatican. It also needs the continued support of American backers of the Obama engagement policy, who want the US to turn a blind eye to human-rights abuses.
Yet there are limits to what can be brushed off. When opposition congressmen were attacked by Cuban-style mobs on July 5, and their bloodied faces showed up on the front pages of international newspapers, the Zapateros of the world began to squirm. That was Havana’s cue to improve the lighting for Maduro.
First Maduro claimed he knew nothing about it, though his Vice-President was on the floor of the legislature while it was happening. That was not believable.
Three days later came the sudden decision to move Lopez from military prison to house arrest. Maduro said it was a “humanitarian” gesture.
Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino, an acolyte of Fidel, said it was a “product of dialogue and ­tolerance.”
Thus the images of the savagery in the National Assembly receded while photos of Lopez, kissing a Venezuelan flag outside his home, popped up everywhere. Mission accomplished and Lopez remains detained.
For too long the world has overlooked the atrocities of the Cuban police state. In 1989 Fidel was even a special guest at the inauguration of Venezuelan president Carlos Andres Perez. Today the “special guests” are brutalizing Venezuela as the world wonders what went wrong.

Maduro is trying to cool off the protests: Leopoldo Lopez released from prison to house arrest

CNN

Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, whose imprisonment has been a rallying cry for anti-regime demonstrators, has been ordered released to house arrest because of health concerns, the nation’s Supreme Court said Saturday morning.

Lopez has been detained since early 2014 over accusations of inciting anti-government protests.
“By the power of Supreme Court Judge Maikel Moreno, the criminal court of the Supreme Court Justice grants house arrest to Leopoldo Lopez due to health problems,” the court tweeted.
One of Lopez’s relatives confirmed that he has been granted house arrest.
The South American country is in the throes of a political and humanitarian crisis that has spurred mass protests against the government, especially over the past few months.

Lack of demand: Southwest cutting service to two Cuban cities

Rapid City Journal

DALLAS | Southwest Airlines, pulling back on its service to Cuba, plans to end flights to two cities on the island in September after determining the routes aren’t sustainable, the company said last week.

Dallas-based Southwest will operate its last flights to Varadero and Santa Clara on Sept. 4. It will continue its service from Fort Lauderdale and Tampa, Fla., to the island nation’s capital, Havana.

Southwest’s decision is the latest sign that U.S. airlines, which got permission to fly to Cuba last year, have been disappointed with their return on investment. Southwest joins American Airlines and JetBlue in cutting back service to Cuba, while Frontier Airlines and Silver Airways ended their Cuba flights altogether.

“Our decision to discontinue the other Cuba flights comes after an in-depth analysis of our performance over several months which confirmed that there is not a clear path to sustainability serving these markets, particularly with the continuing prohibition in U.S. law on tourism to Cuba for American citizens,” Steve Goldberg, Southwest’s senior vice president of ground operations, said in a statement.

Commercial flights between the U.S. and Cuba took off for the first time in 50 years in 2016 as part of a broader push by the Obama administration to liberalize relations between the two countries.

Airlines launched dozens of daily flights to Havana and smaller cities across the island, hoping to stake a claim in a new market with the potential to grow into a major tourist draw.

About 285,000 U.S. citizens traveled to Cuba in 2016, triple the amount that did so in 2014, according to the Boston Consulting Group.

The Obama-era policy made it easier for U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba but did not totally eliminate restrictions and challenges that made visiting the island unlike traveling to any other Caribbean market.

General tourism to the island is prohibited, with U.S. travelers having to visit under one of 12 official purposes, including educational, research or humanitarian.

Traveling to the island is likely to get even more difficult for U.S. citizens after President Donald Trump announced changes this month that will require most visitors to be part of organized tour groups.

For now, much of the traffic between the U.S. and Cuba will likely be Cuban Americans visiting friends and family on the island, a market Southwest will continue to serve with its flights from Fort Lauderdale to Havana.

The company is currently requesting a third daily flight between those two cities and is awaiting a ruling from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

These Cuban coaches think they are still in Cuba

They should be in jail, instead of a baseball field.

Video

New York Post

If you’re going down, go down swinging. The Cuban National Team made use of that axiom Thursday night in an exhibition, 6-5 loss to the Canadian-American League’s Rockland Boulders.

After the umpires overturned a controversial call in the ninth inning, calling Cuba’s runner out at second base due to interference, the Cuban coaching staff lost their minds. One coach arguing with the head umpire turned into a sea of older men in red-and-white uniforms surrounding the umpires on the infield dirt, getting in their faces, bumping them with their chests and kicking dirt on them.

The entire coaching staff was promptly ejected from the game, although that didn’t stop them from stalking the umpires onto the outfield grass.

The umpires eventually made it to safety, exiting the field and forcing the game to end early — with one out in the ninth inning and the tying run on first base.

The game was part of an international showcase which featured the Yeoncheon Miracle, an independent South Korean team, and the Cuban team on a three-week tour through the Can-Am League.

The tour was unaffected by the recent restrictions President Donald Trump placed on predecessor Barack Obama’s Cuban travel policy.

Venezuela crisis: Helicopter launches attack on Supreme Court

BBC

Venezuela’s Supreme Court has been attacked by grenades dropped from a helicopter in what President Nicolás Maduro called a “terrorist attack”.
Footage on social media shows a police helicopter circling over the city before shots and a loud bang are heard.
The police officer said to have piloted the stolen aircraft issued a statement denouncing the “criminal government”. His whereabouts are unknown.
It comes after mass protests against the political and economic crisis.
The Supreme Court is regularly criticised by the Venezuelan opposition for its rulings which bolster Mr Maduro’s hold on power.
What happened?
In an address from the presidential palace, President Maduro said the helicopter had flown over the Supreme Court and also the justice and interior ministries.
Officials quoted by Reuters news agency said four grenades were dropped on the court and 15 shots had been fired at the interior ministry.
No injuries were reported but Mr Maduro said “a social event” had been taking place at the Supreme Court and the attack could have caused “dozens of deaths”. One of the grenades failed to detonate, he added.
Mr Maduro has placed the military on alert.
“I have activated the entire armed forces to defend the peace,” he said. “Sooner or later, we are going to capture that helicopter and those who carried out this terror attack.”

Who flew the helicopter?
The police officer identified himself as Oscar Pérez in video statements posted on the social media platform Instagram.
Appearing in military fatigues and flanked by armed, masked men in uniform, he appealed to Venezuelans to oppose “tyranny”.
“We are a coalition of military employees, policemen and civilians who are looking for balance and are against this criminal government,” he said.
“We don’t belong to any political tendency or party. We are nationalists, patriots and institutionalists.”
He said the “fight” was not against the security forces but “against the impunity of this government. It is against tyranny”.
It is not clear how much support, if any, the officer has.
Mr Maduro said the pilot had worked for former Interior and Justice Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres, but was no longer with him.

 

Could 1 million more Cubans be deemed ineligible for remittances?

The Miami Herald

William LeoGrande, an American University professor who specializes in U.S.-Cuba relations, says it appears there might be a “poison pill” in President Donald Trump’s new Cuba policy that potentially could cut off remittances to more than 1 million Cubans.

The memorandum on strengthening Cuba policy that Trump signed last week in Miami specifically states that regulatory changes shall not prohibit “sending, processing or receiving authorized remittances” — the money that’s sent to family members and friends in Cuba.

Currently remittances can be sent to almost anyone on the island — with the exception of members of the Council of Ministers, which includes the president, first vice president, seven first vice presidents, ministers and a few other top officials, and high-ranking military officials.

But the Trump memo greatly expands the definition of so-called prohibited officials.

It includes not only ministers, vice ministers and members of the Council of State and Council of Ministers but also members and employees of the National Assembly of People’s Power — Cuba’s parliament; provincial assembly members; local heads of Committees for the Defense of the Revolution; directors general, sub-directors and higher officers of all Cuban ministries and state agencies; employees of the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Defense; and members and employees of Cuba’s Supreme Court.

The memo also lists secretaries and first secretaries of the Confederation of Labor of Cuba and top editors of all state-run media outlets as prohibited officials.

Such a sweeping category could potentially include a quarter of Cuba’s labor force, LeoGrande said. “It’s literally a million people if you count everyone who works for the military and GAESA that could have their remittances cut off,” he said.

GAESA (Grupo de Administración Empresarial) is a Cuban military conglomerate that controls a broad swath of the Cuban economy, including the Gaviota Tourism Group. One of the cornerstones of Trump’s new Cuba policy is channeling U.S. money and businesses away from GAESA and instead encouraging Americans and U.S. companies to develop economic ties with small private business people in Cuba.

But widening the prohibition on who can receive remittances could potentially hurt many Cuban families — those Trump has said he wants to support with his new policy, LeoGrande said. Many Cubans are dependent on money sent from friends and relatives abroad because state salaries are so low. An estimated $3 billion in remittances is sent to the island annually.

Among the questions, which may by clarified when regulations on the new Cuba policy are written, is how literally to take the definition of all employees of the Ministry of Defense.

All Cuban males must complete compulsory military service. “Does this mean an active duty private is an employee of the Ministry of Defense, and therefore a prohibited person?” asked Robert Muse, a Washington lawyer. “There still has to be more definition of what this means.”

Also in question is whether a person who is a clerk or low-level employee at an enterprise run by GAESA would be considered an employee of the Ministry of Defense.

Trying to sort out such definitions about who is eligible to receive remittances could potentially become a real headache for money transfer companies, Muse said.

In response to a query, Western Union, which has provided money transfer services to Cuba from the United States since 1999 and more recently began to handle remittances from other parts of the world to Cuba, said: “Western Union does not believe the changes are intended to impact the sending of authorized remittances to Cuba.”

Said LeoGrande: “There are a number of things that need to be clarified. The [memorandum] is so ambiguous in places.”

Cuba watchers also point to a section of Trump’s memorandum that instructs the State Department to identify “entities or sub-entities” under the control or acting on behalf of the Cuban “military, intelligence or security services or personnel” and publish a list of those with which “direct financial transactions” would disproportionately benefit them “at the expense of the Cuban people or private enterprise in Cuba.”

Some analysts have zeroed in on the word direct in the memorandum. Previous OFAC directives usually refer to direct and indirect financial transactions.

“Does this mean you can’t go and book at a Gaviota hotel, but you can give a Spanish tour company money and they can get you a room at the Saratoga?” Muse asked. (The Hotel Saratoga is operated under the umbrella of Habaguanex, which was recently transferred to the military.)

Editorial: Pressure on Cuba’s dictators

Providence Journal 

Donald Trump has not always shown much interest in the promotion of human rights abroad. He has mindlessly praised the Chinese regime’s massacre at Tiananmen Square and expressed little concern about Vladimir Putin’s human rights-abusing thugocracy in Russia. On the other hand, he recently spoke out about the terrible human rights abuses that continue in Cuba.

A little more than a year ago, Barack Obama traveled to Cuba on a landmark visit. His Cuban sojourn came on the heels of several major shifts in our policy toward the Communist Caribbean island. Diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba were restored, a good move for our country. Cuba now has an embassy in Washington, and the U.S. has one in Havana. Cuba was removed from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism. Several travel limits were eased, as were restrictions on U.S. banks’ activities on the island.

There was a good reason to seek changes. Fifty years of hostility between the United States and Cuba had done little to improve the human rights situation on the island, which remained appalling. Ditto for the country’s sclerotic, state-run economy, which had left millions mired in abject poverty. It was time for a new approach.

Unfortunately, the new approach has not led Cuba to alter its ways in the least. The political system remains grotesquely oppressive; nearly 10,000 political arrests were reported in 2016 alone, and free speech remains just a dream. (Almost 500 political arrests occurred even as President Obama was visiting Cuba.)

Perhaps needless to say, the Castro regime still refuses to hold free and fair elections. The economy, meanwhile, has remained tightly controlled.

President Trump, recognizing Cuba’s failure to budge, announced new Cuba policies in Miami last week. Crucially, he did not roll back all of the reforms that President Obama implemented. (Though in typical Trump fashion, the president was rather dishonest about this — he claimed, falsely, that he was “canceling” Obama’s policies.) For example, the embassies will remain open and direct flights between the U.S. and Cuba will continue to operate. That’s wise; it would be foolish to initiate another counterproductive deep freeze.

But President Trump announced his administration will crack down on the kinds of trips Americans can take to Cuba. (Pure tourism wasn’t permitted even under Obama, but this rule went largely unenforced.) The Trump administration will also impose restrictions on the kinds of business Americans can conduct on the island. The State Department is currently at work on a list of Cuban businesses that are controlled by the regime’s military and security services; Americans will be forbidden from doing business with them.

This seems an appropriate threading of the needle. Tourism provides funding to the repressive regime; likewise, the Cuban military and security services are the tools with which the police state is enforced.

Top NewsClick Now and Read Later.

As the president put it during his announcement, “To the Cuban government, I say, put an end to the abuse of dissidents, release the political prisoners, stop jailing innocent people, open yourselves to political and economic freedoms, return the fugitives from American justice, including the return of the cop killer Joanne Chesimard.” The people of Cuba would benefit greatly if their oppressors would begin to heed such cries for human rights and elemental justice.

Yale Professor Banned From Cuba Reacts to Trump’s Policy Change

NBC Connecticut

A Yale University history professor said he hopes President Donald Trump’s policy change to restrict the flow of American dollars into Cuba will make it more difficult for the Castro dynasty to stay in power.
“Well I was born in Cuba, and I left when I was 11 years old without my parents,” Professor Carlos Eire said.
That was in the early 1960s. Later reunited with his mom, Eire has not been back to Cuba since. He was unable to attend his father’s funeral.
“I can’t go back because I’m an official enemy of the state,” he explained. “And all my books are banned in Cuba, even my scholarly books that have nothing to do with Cuba.”
Eire has long opposed any tourists visiting Cuba because the Castro regime remains in control.
“The foreigners who visit have access to all sorts of thing that are off limits to Cubans and they have freedom and rights denied to Cubans,” Eire said.
In December 2014, when President Obama was preparing to ease restrictions on U.S. travel to Cuba, Eire wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post saying, “As a Cuba exile, I feel betrayed.”
“He didn’t care how long Cuba remains enslaved,” Eire said of the former president. “He just wanted to change his police to fit all his foreign policy.”
In Miami Friday, Trump announced a reversal in his predecessor’s approach to Cuba that includes limiting American trade and travel.
“American has rejected the Cuban people’s oppressors, they are rejected, officially today, rejected,” Trump said in front of a crowd of Cuban-Americans.
Both of Connecticut’s Democratic senators expressed concern with the announcement from the president on U.S.-Cuba relations.
“Trump’s new policies break the campaign promises he made to boost American jobs and business,” Senator Chris Murphy said. “Connecticut businesses are eager to do more business with Cuba, but now our president has made that harder. More than 50 years of embargo and isolation failed to bring about any meaningful change in Cuba or help the Cuban people. Rather than doubling down on the failed policies of the past, President Trump should build on the new course that President Obama set and recognize that diplomacy and people-to-people ties are the best way to bring democracy and prosperity to the people of Cuba.”
Senator Richard Blumenthal said he wants to see how the policy change plays out, but said he hoped Cuban human rights and relations with the U.S. could improve through more “trade, visits and contacts.”
According to Eire, the past two years of U.S. engagement and increased American travel has not made life better for Cubans because the money flowing in ends up in the pockets of the military that runs the country.
“The Obama normalization circus as I like to call it is a little blip that didn’t make any difference so to speak,” Eire told NBC Connecticut. “This reversal remains to be seen what happens.”

Trump orders clampdown on Cuba travel and trade, curbing Obama detente

U.S. President Donald Trump holds a document he signed after announcing his Cuba policy at the Manuel Artime Theater in the Little Havana neighborhood in Miami, Florida, U.S. June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

Reuters
President Donald Trump on Friday ordered tighter restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba and a clampdown on U.S. business dealings with the island’s military, saying he was canceling former President Barack Obama’s “terrible and misguided deal” with Havana.

Laying out his new Cuba policy in a speech in Miami, Trump signed a presidential directive to roll back parts of Obama’s historic opening to the Communist-ruled country after a 2014 diplomatic breakthrough between the two former Cold War foes. But Trump was leaving in place many of Obama’s changes, including the reopened U.S. embassy in Havana, even as he sought to show he was making good on a campaign promise to take a tougher line against Cuba.

“We will not be silent in the face of communist oppression any longer,” Trump told a cheering crowd in Miami’s Cuban-American enclave of Little Havana, including Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who helped forge the new restrictions on Cuba.

“Effective immediately, I am canceling the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba,” Trump declared as he made a full-throated verbal assault on the government of Cuban President Raul Castro.

Trump’s revised approach, which will be contained in a new presidential directive, calls for stricter enforcement of a longtime ban on Americans going to Cuba as tourists, and seeks to prevent U.S. dollars from being used to fund what the Trump administration sees as a repressive military-dominated government.

But facing pressure from U.S. businesses and even some fellow Republicans to avoid turning back the clock completely in relations with communist-ruled Cuba, the president chose to leave intact some of his Democratic predecessor’s steps toward normalization. The new policy bans most U.S. business transactions with the Armed Forces Business Enterprises Group, a Cuban conglomerate involved in all sectors of the economy, but makes some exceptions, including for air and sea travel, according to U.S. officials. This will essentially shield U.S. airlines and cruise lines serving the island.

“We do not want U.S. dollars to prop up a military monopoly that exploits and abuses the citizens of Cuba,” Trump said, pledging that U.S. sanctions would not be lifted until Cuba frees political prisoners and holds free election.

However, Trump stopped short of breaking diplomatic relations restored in 2015 after more than five decades of hostilities. He will not cut off recently resumed direct U.S.-Cuba commercial flights or cruise-ship travel, though his more restrictive policy seems certain to dampen new economic ties overall.

The administration, according to one White House official, has no intention of “disrupting” existing business ventures such as one struck under Obama by Starwood Hotels Inc, which is owned by Marriott International Inc, to manage a historic Havana hotel. Nor does Trump plan reinstate limits that Obama lifted on the amount of the island’s coveted rum and cigars that Americans can bring home for personal use. While the changes are far-reaching, they appear to be less sweeping than many U.S. pro-engagement advocates had feared. Still, it will be the latest attempt by Trump to overturn parts of Obama’s presidential legacy. He has already pulled the United States out of a major international climate treaty and is trying to scrap his predecessor’s landmark healthcare program.

Trump justified his partial reversal of Obama’s Cuba measures to a large extent on human rights grounds. His aides contend that Obama’s efforts amounted to “appeasement” and have done nothing to advance political freedoms in Cuba, while benefiting the Cuban government financially.

Trump’s critics have questioned why his administration is now singling out Cuba for its human rights record but downplaying the issue in other parts of the world.

Citing the lack of human rights concessions from Cuba in the detente negotiated by Obama, Trump said, “It’s hard to think of a policy that makes less sense than the prior administration’s terrible and misguided deal with the Castro regime.”

International human rights groups say, however, that again isolating the island could worsen the situation by empowering Cuban hard-liners. The Cuban government has made clear it will not be pressured into reforms in exchange for engagement.

The Cuban government had no immediate comment, but ordinary Cubans said they were crestfallen to be returning to an era of frostier relations with the United States with potential economic fallout for them.