Inside Marco Rubio’s campaign to shape Trump’s Cuba crackdown

Politico

Worried about bureaucratic pushback to preserve Obama’s normalization, the Florida senator went directly to the president with a plan in May.

Facing President Donald Trump in the Oval Office, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio issued a blunt warning: The administration’s plan to crack down on Cuba trade and travel was under threat.

Any effort by Trump to make good on his campaign promise to roll back former President Barack Obama’s historic accord with Raul Castro would be delayed, Rubio cautioned—not just from the Castro government and from outside business interests, but from within. It would be studied to death by government analysts who favor more engagement with Cuba, not less. It would be leaked to the news media. Stillborn with a thousand excuses by the bureaucrats.

So go it alone, Rubio told the president during their May 3 meeting.

“What you’ve committed to do on Cuba, what you want to do on Cuba, is never going to come from career staff. It’s going to have to come from the top down. You’re going to have to tell them what to do,” Rubio recalled telling the president as his fellow Miami Republican member of Congress, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, nodded in agreement.

“The career service people, in the State Department and Treasury and in other places, are not in favor of changing this policy,” Rubio recalled telling the president.

That one piece of advice from Rubio probably marks the moment that Trump’s Cuba policy achieved escape velocity, according to interviews with eight officials who helped craft or had knowledge of the drafting of Trump’s Cuba policy as well as correspondence and documents shared with POLITICO.

On Friday, the president will appear in Miami, the home base of the Cuban-American exile community to announce the new crackdown on Cuba.

The policy bears the unmistakable fingerprints of Rubio — a Trump antagonist during the Republican primary campaign last year who has grown increasingly close to Trump — and Diaz-Balart, also a staunch critic of Obama’s moves to normalize ties with the island nation. Continue reading Inside Marco Rubio’s campaign to shape Trump’s Cuba crackdown

Trump Weighs Slowing Cuba Opening With Curbs on U.S. Tourists

Bloomberg

President Donald Trump plans to follow through on a campaign promise by rolling back the Obama administration’s effort to open Cuba to U.S. tourism and trade, with new limits being considered on travel and investment by U.S. companies.

Trump’s advisers are preparing options including curbs on American travel to the island and restricting partnerships between U.S. companies and entities with ties to the Cuban military, according to two people familiar with the discussions.

Final options haven’t yet been presented to Trump, though a decision is expected before a visit by the U.S. president to Miami on Friday. The people familiar with the plans, both outside the White House, spoke on condition of anonymity because discussions are ongoing.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Monday declined to describe Trump’s plans for President Barack Obama’s Cuba liberalization policy. “When we have an announcement on the president’s schedule we’ll let you know,” he told reporters.

Trump has criticized Obama’s deal-making with Cuba as one-sided, and has said it allowed the Castro regime to continue human rights abuses. Obama re-opened the U.S. embassy on the island, relaxed travel restrictions on American citizens, and allowed U.S. airlines to establish direct flights and U.S. cruise lines to make ports of call in Cuba.

“All of the concessions that Barack Obama has granted the Castro Regime were done through 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 at a campaign rally in Miami last September.

Havana Hotel

New sanctions aimed at cutting off flows of money that benefit the Cuban military could affect U.S. hotel partnerships in Cuba, including the Four Points by Sheraton in Havana. The Cuban military had a stake in the hotel’s Cuban partner.

Other ideas under discussion, the people familiar with the matter said, include guidelines that would require Americans to formally explain how their travel to Cuba benefits the U.S. and the Cuban people, as well as increased scrutiny of travelers and the frequency of their visits.

Travel restrictions could impact U.S. airlines with direct flights to Cuba as well as the cruise industry. One advocate of Obama’s policies said a change would have less impact on a vacationer than on people seeking to do business or on Cuban-Americans who want to visit family on the island on a regular basis.

Senator Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican who backed Obama’s Cuba policy, said lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are concerned about what Trump will do.

Any additional restrictions on travel “will go over like a lead balloon, and it should,” Flake said in an interview on Monday. Under the travel limits in place preceding Obama, he said, Cuban-Americans with aging parents in Cuba might have been forced to decide which parent’s funeral to attend.

He also said he does not want to see curbs on Cuban entrepreneurship or the U.S. more focused on Cuba sanctions than on sanctions against North Korea or Iran.

Sanction Effects

Sanctions targeting the Cuban military could have widespread effects, given its large role in the country — perhaps touching even on remittances and agriculture. The impact would depend on how sanctions are structured.

James Williams, president of Engage Cuba, a Washington-based group lobbying to end the 55-year old U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, said that changes to Obama’s policy could have unintended consequences for U.S. businesses and jobs. “The idea that this is just some kind of modest step back is only true if it’s done extremely carefully in the end,” he said.

A report prepared by his group found that major airlines including American Airlines Group Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc., JetBlue Airways Corp., Southwest Airlines Co., United Continental Holdings Inc., and Carnival Corp., Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. have all taken advantage of Obama’s relaxed travel restrictions.

The island has not been as promising a business opportunity as U.S. airlines once expected, however. Already, Frontier Airlines Holdings Inc., Silver Airways Corp., and Spirit Airlines, Inc. have discontinued flights to Cuba entirely, and American, the largest carrier with service to Cuba, scaled back flights 25 percent earlier this year.

Flake said he and two Democratic senators, Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, met last week with Trump’s national security adviser H.R. McMaster to share their concerns but that McMaster did not signal the administration’s plans.

The president’s advisers have sought input from across his Cabinet but also have been working behind the scenes with critics of the Castro administration, including Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican.

“I am confident the president will keep his commitment on Cuba policy by making changes that are targeted and strategic and which advance the Cuban people’s aspirations for economic and political liberty,” Rubio said in a statement.

Trump, in Miami speech, set to roll back Obama’s Cuba policy

Fox News, By Serafín Gómez

President Trump will head to Miami on Friday, home to a large and influential Cuban-American community, to unveil his administration’s new Cuba policy — which will roll back central parts of his predecessor’s efforts to normalize ties with the Communist island nation, according to a senior administration official and other sources.

While details on the changes to the policy have yet to be fully revealed, a U.S. official suggested that Trump would call for Cuban President Raul Castro to push for more political freedom and to release democratic activists in Cuban prisons, among other initiatives.

Trump is at the same time expected to announce a reversal in some areas of former President Barack Obama’s previous steps toward normalizing relations including the opening of embassies between the two countries and the easing of flight restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba.

The final actions have not been set as the review over the specifics of the plan continues. However, there will likely be steps in restricting travel from the U.S. to Cuba; there are now daily flights from Florida to Cuba. Another directive being weighed is taking steps to limit American companies from dealing with businesses owned by the Cuban military, U.S. sources confirm to Fox News.

While campaigning in Miami during a stop in September of 2016, then-Republican presidential nominee Trump hinted at such a move, tying it to demands on the Cuban government.

“All of the concessions Barack Obama has granted the Castro regime were done through executive order which means our next president can reverse them,“ Trump said. “And that I will do unless the Castro regime meets our demands.”

“Those demands include religious and political freedom for the Cuban people, and the freeing of political prisoners,” Trump added.

Key Republican lawmakers Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Mario Diaz Balart, both Cuban-Americans from Florida, have been directly involved in working with the White House on the new Cuba policy, according to sources with direct knowledge of the situation.

Rubio, who opposed Trump in the 2016 Republican presidential primary, has worked “diligently behind the scenes” with the administration to develop the approach, said a source directly involved in the policy discussions.

“I am confident the president will keep his commitment on Cuba policy by making changes that are targeted and strategic and which advance the Cuban people’s aspirations for economic and political liberty,” Rubio said in a statement.

A senior Rubio adviser previewed what may be represented during Friday’s Trump Cuba policy rollout, including that the new approach would have to be in compliance with the “statutory provisions passed by Congress which govern US-Cuba policy.”

The aide also stressed that the new Cuba policy would be in the best interest of U.S. foreign policy and national security.

Part of the focus is to also encourage the emerging generation of Cuban leaders to take the reigns after Raul Castro steps down in 2018, as he publicly stated he would.

“Raul Castro and his closest advisors are mostly in their 80’s,” the senior aide told Fox News, stressing they are focusing on the “long term.”

“Cuba will soon have a new generation of leaders, one way or another. These policy measures are designed to lay the groundwork for them to empower the Cuban people to develop greater economic and ultimately political liberty.”

Marta Beatriz Roque to receive West New York ‘key to town’

NJ.com

A well-known Cuban dissident will be in West New York on Friday to speak out against continued human rights abuses on the island despite the recent thaw in U.S. relations, and to be honored by one of the town’s own outspoken critics of the island’s authoritarian regime.

The dissident, Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello, is a 72-year-old economist and longtime critic of Fidel Castro and his brother Raul. She has spent years in and out of prison in Cuba on charges including counterrevolutionary activities.

North Hudson, and West New York in particular, have one of the largest Cuban-American communities in the country outside of the Miami area.

Roque Cabello will have a sympathetic audience in Mayor Felix Roque, a Cuban native and outspoken critic of the Castro family regime. The mayor has previously met with other Cuban dissidents, and even talked about returning to Cuba to run for office some day.

“For me, it’s an honor,” Roque said of Roque Cabello’s visit. “And it shows there’s still people out there fighting for freedom of speech and democracy.”

Roque will be joined by members of the West New York Town Council at 11:30 a.m. Friday, in his office at town hall, where they will hear Roque Cabello speak and present her with ceremonial “Key to the Town.”

While Roque is not a common name in Cuba, the mayor said he and the dissident are not related.

“It’s just a weird coincidence,” he said.

Roque Cabello is a member of what is known as Cuba’s “Group of Four,” which published “The Homeland Belongs to Us All,” a 1997 paper that called for political and economic reforms, advocated a boycott of the country’s one-party elections, and urged international investors to keep their money out of Cuba.

The visit to West New York was arranged by an anti-Castro activist in New Jersey, Sergio Gatria, director of the Cuban Information Center in Lyndhurst. Gatria said he had been in contact with Roque Cabello in advance of her visit and that she was interested in meeting Roque and visiting West New York.

“I called Roque because he is well known in Cuba,” among dissidents, Gatria said.

Gatria said Roque Cabello’s visit to New Jersey is a brief stop on a visit to the United States from Cuba, and that she will fly back to Miami on Saturday before returning to the island.

Roque has met with members of the Ladies in White, a group made up of the wives of imprisoned Cuban dissidents who dress in white for Sunday Mass and silent marches through Cuban streets. He has also helped bring Cubans across the Mexican border into the United States.

Like U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Rep. Albio Sires (D-8th District), former mayors of Union City and West New York, respectively, Roque is among Cuban-American Democrats who opposed President Obama’s reopening of diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Roque said he fears that cozier relations with the U.S. government will only embolden the Cuban regime in its suppression of dissent.

“We never got anything in return,” he said.

How Fidel Castro Supported Terrorism in America

The Wall Street Journal, By  Zach Dorfman
The decision to honor Oscar López Rivera, a terrorist who spent 35 years in federal prison, at New York’s Puerto Rican Day Parade Sunday unleashed a firestorm. Organizers named López Rivera—released in February under an 11th-hour clemency from President Obama —the parade’s first-ever “National Freedom Hero.”

In response, major sponsors such as Goya, Coca-Cola , Univision, Jet Blue and the Yankees pulled their support. New York Police Department Commissioner James O’Neill is refusing to march, as are several Democratic politicians, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.

The wariness over López Rivera—who’ll still march, though he’s said he’ll forgo the “hero” designation—is well-founded. The group he helped lead, the pro-independence Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional Puertorriqueña, or FALN, was one of the most prolific terrorist organizations of its time. Between the mid-1970s and mid-1980s, the FALN perpetrated more than 130 bombings. It was responsible for the 1975 explosion at Fraunces Tavern, which killed four and wounded 63; a bombing spree in New York City in August 1977 that killed one, injured six, and forced the evacuation of 100,000 office workers; and the purposeful targeting and maiming of four police officers, among many other vicious crimes.

Carnage on this scale was possible because of the FALN’s organizational and operational sophistication—including its numerous connections to communist Cuba and its intelligence services. Those connections have been known to law enforcement for decades.

According to court documents, Filiberto Ojeda Ríos, who is believed to have helped co-found the FALN, told an undercover NYPD officer in 1983 that he had received explosives training in Cuba. And the FBI estimated that by 1973, roughly 135 Puerto Rican militants had received “extensive instruction in guerilla war tactics, preparation of explosive artifacts, and sophisticated methods of sabotage” from Fidel Castro’s intelligence services.

The full extent of the FALN’s Cuba connections is unknown. But they may be more enduring than has been publicly reported. According to an NYPD document I discovered at the Hoover Institution archives at Stanford—undated, but apparently circa 1977—by that time officials had come to believe that “the FALN was started in the mid-1960’s with a nucleus of Puerto Rican terrorists that received advanced training in Cuba. . . . After their advanced training in Cuba they returned to Puerto Rico and a wave of bombings and incendiary incidents struck the [latter] island. Within the last few years they have shifted their activities to the mainland. . . . It is believed that they have maintained close links and may in fact work closely with Cuban intelligence operatives.”

That training would help explain the FALN’s professionalism, as well as its ability to bedevil law enforcement. An FALN instructional manual, which I also found at Hoover, includes sophisticated directives for compartmentalized clandestine communications between different “cadres,” or cells, as well as espionage and countersurveillance techniques. “One must observe religiously the rules and regulations of security in order to protect the organization, its cadres, its secrets, its documents, its arms, [safe] houses, and other instruments of work,” the document says. According to the manual, this hyperattention to security even extended to meetings of the MLN, the FALN’s above-ground political organization.

Viewed from this broader perspective, the FALN was not merely a “highly motivated and intelligent adversary,” as the NYPD document I found puts it. It was an instrument in the decadeslong shadow war between the U.S. and Cuba.

This is not to minimize the pro-independence sentiment in Puerto Rico, or the historical, cultural and emotional bonds that tie the two islands together. The Spanish-American War, which gave Cuba its independence, also led to Puerto Rico’s annexation by the U.S. But from Castro’s perspective, training a group of dedicated Marxist militants, whose actions would then destabilize major American cities such as New York and Chicago (as well as Puerto Rico itself), would help form a relatively low-cost, and covert, strategy for weakening his greatest antagonist.

On May 17 López Rivera was released from house arrest, 3½ months after departing prison. The Cuban regime applauded. “Please accept our fraternal congratulations on behalf of the Party, government and people, who share the joy of your liberation,” said President Raul Castro, Fidel’s brother. “We await you in Cuba, with all the honors and affection you deserve, whenever it may be possible for you.”

Mr. Castro neglected to mention that Cuba already plays host to another FALN leader: William Morales, one of the group’s bomb-makers, who after escaping from a U.S. prison in 1979 found his way to Havana. Much of the story of Oscar López Rivera and the FALN takes place far from the streets of Spanish Harlem, Humboldt Park or San Juan.

Mr. Dorfman is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs.

Goldman’s Venezuela deal shows it missed a dramatic shift in its business

Business Insider

Ever since the Wall Street Journal reported Goldman Sachs bought bonds issued by Venezuela’s state oil company, it has faced a firestorm of criticism.

There were protests outside of the bank’s New York headquarters, and Venezuela’s opposition lawmakers accused it of funding an oppressive regime.

All this, and we just learned that the deal didn’t even rise to the attention of top bank executives. In fact, the way WSJ’s Liz Hoffman tells it, buying the bonds for $0.31 on the dollar was a “no brainer” for fund managers.

Sure, it’s a no brainer in a vacuum. But Goldman doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Outside of the fact that Venezuela is currently defined by stories of extreme human suffering, Goldman is also under more scrutiny now that the White House is filled with its alumni.

Put in terms a portfolio manager might understand: If there was a marketplace for media hive and public outrage, then Goldman’s reputational risk premium exploded when Donald Trump became president and Steve Mnuchin and Gary Cohn (and Steve Bannon) took his side.

The Venezuela trade, though, shows that the bank might not have understood this.

Now, to be fair, a bank should be able to do whatever legal deal they want and — on paper — Goldman’s in the clear.

Venezuela didn’t even issue new debt for this, and Goldman will likely make money for its shareholders on the trade. Bonds of the oil company, PDVSA, are basically sovereign debt.

Goldman’s problem has to do with how we expect banks to do business after the financial crisis. We actually want banks to care about their reputations, especially when their alums help run the world from the White House. When they act like they don’t care, that’s now bad for business because we’re watching.

“Forget the moral and the ethics of it all… As a practical business model they obviously made a mistake,” Steve Hanke, an economist who advised former Venezuelan President Rafael Caldera, told Business Insider.

As you can see from the chart of Venezuela’s cash reserves below, the regime has wiggled out of tight spots before. Whether Goldman had bought those PDVSA bonds or not the carnage in Venezuela would continue, perhaps for quite a long time. Regimes that have seemed close to death for years still exist on the planet (think: Zimbabwe and Robert Mugabe).

Here’s the good news though, the fact that there is an uproar about this shows we’re not sinking into a dangerous space of complete moral relativism.

Good job, guys.

We now live in a world where the president of the United States decided that the secretary of state should be the former Exxon Mobil CEO, who actively lobbied Congress to remove a rule that made his company unable to do clandestine business with authoritarian petro-states.

That rule was a part of Dodd-Frank, and a few months ago the Trump administration had it removed.

The message here from the great hive that is the media and the internet is that Goldman should be less vulgar, less greedy. The message that decisions involving brutal autocrats should no longer be “no-brainers.”

Maybe this is a new era in how we react to banks doing business around the world. Maybe soon enough every kid in American will know something about the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Maybe bankers will catch themselves before they work with the bad guys because, frankly, it’s bad for business.

Wouldn’t be such a bad thing, to be honest. This doesn’t have to be the Wild West — not yet.

Trump administration nearing completion of Cuba policy review

CNBCThe Trump administration is nearing completion of a policy review to determine how far it goes in rolling back former President Barack Obama’s engagement with Cuba and could make an announcement next month, according to current and former U.S. officials and people familiar with the discussions.

President Donald Trump’s advisers are crafting recommendations that could call for tightening some of the trade and travel rules that Obama eased in his rapprochement with Havana but which are expected to stop short of breaking diplomatic relations restored in 2015 after more than five decades of hostility, the sources said.

The policy review, coordinated by the National Security Council, is expected to pick up steam now that Trump has returned from his first foreign trip, one administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Trump threatened in a tweet shortly after his election in November to “terminate” Obama’s approach unless Cuba made significant concessions, something its Communist leadership is unlikely to do.

The White House said in February that Cuba policy was under comprehensive review and that human rights on the island would be a major part of any revised strategy.

Obama implemented his Cuba normalization measures through executive actions that bypassed Congress, and Trump is believed to have the power to undo much of it with the stroke of a pen.

Divisions in Trump administration

But there are divisions within his administration over to what extent he should go, especially given that Obama’s opening to Washington’s former Cold War foe has created opportunities for American companies ranging from telecommunications to airlines.

Some aides have argued that Trump, a former real estate magnate who won the presidency promising to unleash U.S. businesses and create jobs, would have a hard time defending any moves that close off the Cuban market.

A group of 54 U.S. senators reintroduced legislation last Thursday to repeal all remaining restrictions on travel to Cuba, signaling support for U.S.-Cuba detente on Capitol Hill.

But the Republican administration has been under heavy pressure from Cuban-American lawmakers such as U.S. Senator Marco Rubio and U.S. Representative Mario Diaz-Balart to take a much harder line than Trump’s Democratic predecessor.

There is little support in the administration, however, for a full-scale reversal of Obama’s steps that began with a breakthrough with Cuban President Raul Castro in 2014.

Among the options under consideration are tightening restrictions on U.S. firms doing business with Cuban state or military enterprises and re-imposing stricter rules on Americans traveling there, according to people familiar with the discussions.

It remains unclear, however, which recommendation will make their way to Trump, though the sources said a list was likely to be ready for his consideration in coming days or weeks.

“We’re getting closer,” an administration official said.

An announcement of changes could come as soon as June, according to the official and people familiar with the matter.

The Daily Caller newspaper reported on Sunday that Trump would announce policy changes in a June speech in Miami, citing sources from a group opposed to the broader U.S. economic embargo that remains in place against Cuba.

But the timing could also depend on factors such as whether Trump fills key Latin America posts at the State Department and elsewhere that remain vacant, sources told Reuters.

The White House considered making a Cuba announcement on May 20 to mark the 115th anniversary of Cuba’s independence, but that coincided with Trump’s overseas trip and the review also was not yet finished, the sources said.

No USAID funds for Cuba in Trump budget proposal

The Miami Herald

USAID programs in Cuba, which have been highly controversial in recent years, aren’t funded under the Trump administration’s proposed State Department budget for Fiscal Year 2018.

“As we work to streamline efforts to ensure efficiency and effectiveness of U.S. taxpayer dollars, we acknowledge that we have to prioritize and make some tough choices,” said a USAID spokesperson. “Focusing our efforts will allow us to advance our most important policy goals of protecting America and creating American jobs.”

There are no economic support funds for Cuba in the State Department’s 2018 budget proposal, which was released Tuesday. Such funding, which is appropriated by Congress and provided to USAID by the State Department, reached $20 million in fiscal year 2016.

The Trump administration proposed slashing the overall State Department and USAID budget by around 30 percent to $37.6 billion. In his letter to Congress justifying the budget proposal, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the budget addresses “the importance of defending our national security interests” but also acknowledges that “U.S. diplomacy engagement and aid programs must be more efficient and more effective.”

The proposed budget cuts are expected to face a rough slog through Congress.

Assistance to Cuba is governed by the 1996 Helms-Burton Act and the 1992 Cuban Democracy Act, which among other things, authorizes donations of food to non-governmental organizations or individuals as well as other assistance to individuals and organizations to promote nonviolent, democratic change in Cuba.

Cuba has always said the USAID programs aren’t welcome.

Cuba programs that USAID advertised last year included $6 million in grants offered over a three-year period to organizations to “provide humanitarian assistance to political prisoners and their families, and politically marginalized individuals and groups in Cuba,” and a $754,000 program to bring Cuban young people to the United States for internships.

Among USAID programs for Cuba that have caught flak in recent years were a failed effort to co-opt the Cuban hip-hop scene to spark a youth movement that would speak out against the government, a program to create a secret Twitter-like network called ZunZuneo and an event billed as an HIV prevention workshop that brought young Latin Americans posing as tourists to Cuba with a mission of scouting for “potential social-change actors.”

The Associated Press, which first disclosed these projects in 2014, said the goal of ZunZuneo was first to create a program for Cubans to speak freely among themselves and then funnel political content that could create political unrest.

USAID said ZunZuneo’s goal was to connect Cubans so eventually they could engage on topics of their choice and that only tech news, sports scores and trivia were sent out on ZunZuneo. But a report by the Office of Inspector General found some early messages, which mocked Cuban leaders, contained political satire.

ZunZuneo was starting up just as USAID subcontractor Alan Gross was arrested in Havana in December 2009 for distributing satellite equipment in Cuba to link with the internet. Gross was sentenced to 15 years by a Cuban court that ruled his intent was to undermine the government, but he was released after serving five years on Dec. 17, 2014. It was the day the United States and Cuba announced a rapprochement after more than a half century of hostilities.

There are few direct references to Cuba in the fiscal 2018 budget proposal.

But under Migration and Refugee Assistance programs in the Western Hemisphere, which are budgeted for $51.3 million, is this reference: “In Cuba, resources enable the State Department to support the Migrant Operations Center at Naval Station Guantánamo Bay. Under 306 Executive Order 13276, the State Department is responsible for the care of migrants interdicted at sea, determined to be in need of protection, while they await third country resettlement.”

Amid all the cutting, the budget proposes a $40,00 increase to $2.41 million for the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission (FCSC). This quasi-judicial agency within the Department of Justice adjudicates claims of U.S. nationals against foreign governments. The proposal says the agency’s budget would go for the continued evaluation of claims, to maintain the decisions and records of past claims programs and to modernize such records by creating and updating databases.

While the FCSC deals with outstanding claims around the world, it is the repository of 5,913 certified claims against Cuba valued at more than $1.9 billion. In today’s dollars with interest added, those claims for sugar mills, ranches, utilities, corporate holdings and personal property would be worth around $8 billion.

However, Cuba claims the United States owes it billions in reparations for economic damages caused by the U.S. embargo and for human damages for the Bay of Pigs invasion, the bombing of a Cubana airliner and other deadly U.S.-supported incursions on Cuban soil.

The two sides met to discuss the claims during the Obama administration but at this point they have said little more than they hope their claims can be resolved in a “mutually satisfactory manner.”

Trump will not announce highly anticipated changes in Cuba policy

The Miami Herald

After much anticipation that an announcement on Cuba policy changes would be made no later than Saturday, President Donald Trump — in the midst of various political crises — has not decided what to do, officials said.

The White House had considered holding an event May 20 to commemorate the 115th anniversary of the birth of the Cuban Republic, but Trump will begin an international trip on Friday and the review of the policy toward the island has not concluded, a spokeswoman told el Nuevo Herald.

“The issue of Cuba is extremely complex, and the president does not want to rush it,” said the spokeswoman. “Besides, he won’t be here on May 20.”

The Trump administration is carrying out a review of Cuba policy that involves several federal agencies and is being coordinated by the National Security Council.

Rumors of an imminent announcement circulated around Capitol Hill and even crossed the Florida Straits to the island, although Havana seems less anxious than before, when Trump’s presidential victory and strong statements raised questions about the so-called “thaw” in diplomatic relations initiated by former President Barack Obama in 2014.

“Havana is confident that not much will happen,” said a businessman close to the Cuban government.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a drastic change would not make much sense because the Cuban communist government would quickly adjust to a policy of confrontation with its historical enemy, the United States, and because the island is in the throes of a significant transition — the expected retirement of Cuban leader Raúl Castro, 86, in February.

Continue reading Trump will not announce highly anticipated changes in Cuba policy