Tag Archives: Donald Trump

Trump administration reviewing Cuba policy: White House spokesman

Reuters

The Trump administration is in the midst “of a full review of all U.S. policies towards Cuba,” with a focus on its human rights policies, as part of a commitment to such rights for citizens throughout the world, a White House spokesman said on Friday.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer made the comment during a press conference in response to a question about whether the administration of President Donald Trump planned any policy changes toward Cuba.

 

Cuba’s ‘deserting’ doctors fear losing the American Dream amid policy shift

The Miami Herald

Bogotá, Colombia –

In a tiny house in a sprawling suburb of this capital city, a group of Cubans — all of them doctors, dentists and medical professionals — huddled around a television Friday watching Donald Trump’s inauguration speech, hoping he might shed some light on their future.

He didn’t.

“I can’t say we were surprised he didn’t say anything about Cuba. He has to defend U.S. interests first,” said Jorge Carlos Rodríguez, a 26-year-old ophthalmologist. “But we are hoping he does say something about us soon.”

When the Obama administration ended its controversial immigration policy for Cubans on Jan. 12, it left thousands stranded in South and Central America with no guarantee they’d be able to enter the United States. Among the elite group of would-be immigrants now in limbo: Cuba’s medical workers.

For a decade, the Cuban Medical Professional Parole (CMPP) program has given the island’s internacionalistas — doctors working abroad on behalf of the communist government — the right to apply for expedited U.S. visas. As a result, thousands of Cubans have deserted their “medical missions” in places like Venezuela and Brazil.

Cuba said the program was tantamount to stealing: robbing professionals that the cash-strapped island had educated.

But medical workers say the policy offered one of the few ways out of a system they described as indentured servitude — and they’re hoping that the incoming Trump administration will revive it.

Barrio Adentro

Rodríguez arrived in Venezuela on Nov. 2 to work in “Barrio Adentro,” the government’s signature program that uses Cuban doctors to provide free healthcare. His team, however, was immediately confronted with Venezuela’s economic chaos and paranoia.

“For the first 10 days that I was there, the only food I was given was boiled macaroni,” he said. “There was nothing else for us to eat even though we were all medical professionals.”

By the time he was sent to his “mission” in Lara state, he said officials had branded him a flight risk because he has a brother in the United States. Rodríguez said he feared he was going to be punished and sent back to Cuba so he decided to run, crossing the border into Colombia in mid-November to apply for the parole program.
Continue reading Cuba’s ‘deserting’ doctors fear losing the American Dream amid policy shift

Donald Trump crackdown looms for Cuba as repression continues after Obama outreach

The Washington Times
President Obama’s historic move to normalize relations with Cuba hasn’t slowed repression by the Castro regime, and the incoming Trump administration is likely to take a tougher stand on restricting tourism, recovering stolen U.S. assets and demanding human rights reforms by Havana, analysts say.
In the two years since Mr. Obama announced a thaw in the United States’ half-century policy of isolating the island nation, the administration has paved the way for increased engagement, approving such measures as daily commercial flights, direct mail service, cruise ship ports of call and the reopenings of long-shuttered embassies in Washington and Havana.
But Mr. Obama’s policy has not been fully embraced on Capitol Hill and is vulnerable to reversal under the Trump administration, though the president’s aides say his detente is already bearing fruit in Cuba and beyond.
“We’re seeing real progress that is making life better for Cubans right now,” said White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes. “Sustaining this policy will allow for further opening, further travel, further U.S. business opportunities.”
But critics say the U.S. money now flowing to Cuba is being pocketed directly by the military and the Cuban intelligence services, not benefiting Cuban entrepreneurs. They also say the government of President Raul Castro has become more repressive since the formal resumption of diplomatic ties with Washington.
“This year, they’ve had over 10,000 politically motivated arrests,” said Ana Quintana, an analyst on Latin America at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “During President Obama’s visit [in March], there were 498 people arrested in those three days.”
Judging by the standards Mr. Obama laid out in December 2014, she said, “the policy has been a failure.”
“It was originally intended to help the Cuban people by providing greater freedoms,” Ms. Quintana said. “It’s been diluted, because they found that they’re not going to get the concessions from the Cuban government that they expected. The vast majority of people who have benefited from this have been the Cuban military and the Cuban government.”
President-elect Donald Trump is likely to take a less rosy view than Mr. Obama of the U.S. engagement with Cuba, say those familiar with his team’s thinking. During the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump criticized Mr. Obama and Democratic rival Hillary Clinton for “turning a blind eye” to Cuba’s human rights violations and denounced Mr. Obama’s initial deal with Havana as a “very weak agreement.” Several anti-Castro Cuban-American conservatives are part of Mr. Trump’s transition team.

Continue reading Donald Trump crackdown looms for Cuba as repression continues after Obama outreach

We Need a Cuba Policy That Truly Serves the Cuban People

Foreign Policy

As the 2016 presidential campaign began heating up — and Florida appeared more and more winnable — the Donald Trump campaign began increasing its criticisms of President Barack Obama’s 2014 decision to reverse the United States’ longstanding policy towards Cuba. In Miami in September, then-candidate Trump said, “All of the concessions Barack Obama has granted the Castro regime were done through executive order, which means the next president can reverse them, and that I will do unless the Castro regime meets our demands. Not my demands. Our demands.”

In October, Trump’s running mate Mike Pence said, “When Donald Trump and I take to the White House, we will reverse Barack Obama’s executive orders on Cuba.”

The drumbeat has continued post-election. In late November, President-elect Trump tweeted, “If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal.”

A Trump spokesman followed with, “This has been an important issue, and it will continue to be one. Our priorities are the release of political prisoners, return of fugitives from American law, and also political and religious freedoms for all Cubans living in oppression.”

Clearly, changes are coming to U.S.-Cuba policy under Trump. But what to replace Obama’s policy with? Certainly no one argues for a return to the status quo ante. Instead, the President-elect’s new team should seize the opportunity to bring energy and creativity to truly empowering the Cuban people to reclaim their right to decide their own destiny.

If Obama’s ill-fated policy reaffirmed one thing (aside from the Castro regime’s congenital intransigence), it is the Cuban people’s enormous desire for change. But that can’t be supported at the same time as embracing the regime, which Obama failed to grasp. The two are fundamentally incompatible.

That being said, the new administration could begin its review of Cuba policy by focusing on three immediate imperatives:

1. Re-establish common cause with Cuban dissidents and human rights activists. Perhaps the worst aspect of Obama’s policy was shunting these brave Cubans to the back of the policy bus. Obama may believe the U.S. lacks moral authority to advocate on behalf of human rights, but the fact is a strong and unconditional stance by the U.S. serves as an inspiration to those struggling for basic rights around the world, as well as sending an important signal about American purpose.

The U.S. must return to a policy that prioritizes providing both moral and material support for Cuba’s dissidents and human rights activists. Funding for Cuba democracy programs was redirected by the Obama administration to other activities on the island. Not only should those programs be returned to their original purpose, but additional support ought to be sought from the new Congress. Human rights in Cuba must also be reprioritized at the United Nations, other international forums, and in U.S. public diplomacy campaigns.

2. Review all executive orders issued by Obama and commercial deals struck under the Obama administration. They all ought to be judged according to a single standard: Do they help the Cuban people or do they buttress the Castro regime? Any activity found to be sustaining the regime’s control rather than directly benefiting the Cuban people should be scrapped. For example, cruise ships that fill military-owned hotels are hard to justify. The guidelines could be: Does the activity promote and strengthen human rights such as freedom of speech and assembly? Does it improve ordinary Cubans access to the internet and information, breaking down the Castro regime’s wall of censorship placed between the Cuban people and the outside world, and between Cubans themselves? Does it help to lessen Cubans’ dependence on the regime? Does it allow for reputable nongovernmental organizations to freely operate on the island?

3. Review Cuban immigration policies. Cubans today are the beneficiaries of generous U.S. immigration privileges. The Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 allows Cubans reaching U.S. shores to be automatically paroled into the country, and a year and a day later they are eligible for permanent residency. On top of that, the U.S. grants at least 20,000 visas a year to Cubans in a lottery. What has happened is that the Castro regime has turned those policies into another economic lifeline. Many Cubans now emigrating are arriving in the U.S. only to turn around and ferry consumer goods back to the island. Certainly no one can begrudge Cubans trying to help their families on the island, but the situation has become morally inverted. What began as efforts to help Cubans fleeing tyranny has become a situation in which the regime’s victims are now relied upon to provide it economic sustenance.

An overhaul of Obama’s policy toward Cuba is needed, but it does not have to mean a return to the stasis of the past. With newfound political will and creativity, it can mean the implementation of a policy that unapologetically supports the aspirations of the Cuban people for a future devoid of the Castro regime. U.S. policy should be targeted at convincing Cubans that such a future exists, and inspires them to work towards it.

Trump faces decision on letting Americans sue over Cuba property

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Tampa Bay Times

Supporters of improved relations with Cuba say President-elect Donald Trump will have a hard time reversing the two years of momentum created by his predecessor.

But they acknowledge that Trump, who has signaled that he wants a better deal from Cuba, has at least one potent legal card at his disposal that could stifle relations. And the ripples could extend from the Tampa Bay area.

In his first two weeks in office, under a clause in the travel and trade embargo that Congress imposed on communist Cuba, Trump can permit Americans to file lawsuits against any interest that has profited from property of theirs nationalized by the Cuban government.

The question is, will Trump do it?

Jason Poblete, a Virginia-based attorney specializing in U.S.-Cuba policy who represents about two dozen clients who could file such lawsuits, is confident Trump is more likely to do so than his White House predecessors, if not immediately then later in his term.

“I think his administration will do what is best for U.S. interests,” Poblete said. “The Cubans will need to step up and take positive steps.”

The clause, called Title III, involves civil litigation filed in U.S. courts against either private companies — American or international — or the Cuban government.

Civil penalties imposed by the court could add to the debt Cuba already owes the United States, scare American and international companies away from doing business there, and punish those already doing so.

“Trump ran his campaign saying tyranny would not be tolerated,” said Burke Francisco Hedges, a St. Petersburg heir to more than 20 nationalized properties valued at $50 million. “Let’s send a message right away.”

Title III is not in force now. It carries a provision allowing its suspension each six months, and every U.S. president has opted to do so since the clause was written in 1996. That means no one has had the opportunity to file suit. The current suspension, signed by Obama, ends Feb. 1, just 11 days after Trump’s inauguration.

Bolstering the belief that Trump will not suspend Title III was his selection of Mauricio Claver-Carone, director of the hard-line U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC in Washington, D.C., to his transition team for the Department of the Treasury.

Claver-Carone has testified before Congress that Title III grievances should be allowed to proceed. Earlier this year, he told the Tampa Bay Times in an email, “I support it 100 percent.”

If lawsuits are allowed, the Southwest Airlines Tampa-to-Havana flights that launch Dec. 12 could be grounded, said John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade Council in New York

The reason: The family of José Ramón López, who lives in Miami, claims Havana’s José Martí International Airport is built on land taken from them, Kavulich said.

An heir could sue Southwest and any airline in the world profiting from the family’s property and carriers would have to decide whether the penalties are worth the profit.

Then there is London-based Imperial Tobacco, which holds exclusive rights to distribute coveted Cuban cigars outside the island nation.

One of the brands is H. Upmann Cigars, rolled in a Havana factory seized from the Cuesta family of Tampa. The property’s value was estimated at $400,000 when it was nationalized.

The Cuesta family could not be reached for comment, but they and any other American interest that owned a cigar factory seized by Cuba would have standing to file suit against Imperal.

Counting American citizens who had their property seized and Cuban citizens who left for the United States, “Title III would produce several hundred thousand lawsuits against Cuba for untold billions of dollars” said Robert Muse, a Washington, D.C. attorney who advises corporations considering business in Cuba. “This will effectively end for decades any attempt to restore trade between the U.S. and Cuba.”

Among other local people who could file lawsuits are Tampa’s Gary Rapoport, grandson of American gangster Meyer Lansky, whose Habana Riviera hotel and casino in Havana was nationalized. The property’s value was estimated at $8 million.

The family of Clearwater’s Beth Guterman had an estimated $1 million in property taken, including a school and a plantation.

They each told the Times they’d consider suing the Cuban government, which now manages the properties, and any company that invests in them.

Still, Antonio Martinez II, a New York attorney whose practice includes U.S.-Cuba regulations, notes that past presidents have opted not to invoke Title III because of the conflict it would cause with nations that have invested heavily in Cuba, including Canada, Great Britain, Russia, Brazil and China.

Plus, these lawsuits would “jam up courts,” Martinez said.

“It would then take longer to collect, if anything is ever collected,” he said. “Allow diplomacy to work.”

But Miami’s Javier Garcia-Bengochea, whose family owned the property that now makes up Cuba’s Port of Santiago, said he is frustrated with failures by past administrations to effectively negotiate with Cuba.

He said he hopes Trump will come through for him, and if so, he pledges to go after every cruise line in the world profiting from his family’s land.

“Allowing anyone to traffic in stolen property,” Garcia-Bengochea said, “is politically sanctioned organized crime.”

USA Today: Closer look at the man advising Trump on Cuba policy

mauricio-claver-carone

USA Today

The words Fidel Castro have been fighting ones for Maurico Claver-Carone, the man helping President-elect Donald Trump craft policy on Cuba.

As a boy when he played high school football in Orlando, Claver-Carone wore his love for the island country with at least one black sock emblazoned with the Cuban flag. And when he wasn’t on the field, Claver-Carone was already making himself an expert on Cuban history and politics, and forming strong opinions about the Castro regime.

“If you ever mentioned Castro, he would go berserk,” said Ferlan Bailey, Claver-Carone’s longtime friend who graduated with him from Bishop Moore Catholic High School in 1993. “The word ‘Castro’ would just set him off. He’d be like, ‘Don’t even tell me you support Castro.’ He would talk about the people who were persecuted. He knew about the economy, he knew about everything.”

Bailey said Claver-Carone would never physically fight and preferred to dominate his opponents with wit.

“I remember one time in practice, one of the guys got heated and said, ‘We can fight right now,’” Bailey said. “And Mauricio just insulted him with his intelligence.”

Now all of the knowledge and skills Claver-Carone has honed over the years as one of the country’s leading pro-U.S. embargo hardliners will come to bear as he assumes one of the most consequential positions in his career. Last week, Trump appointed him to a key position on his transition team at the U.S. Treasury Department, which oversees financial sanctions enforcement with the communist island.

Claver-Carone, who had worked in Treasury in 2003 under President George W. Bush and has been a top lobbyist and advocate on Cuba, also will be handling regular rank and file work of the department. His portfolio also likely includes policy concerning sanctions on other nations, such as Iran and Venezuela.

The Miami native, raised in Spain and Orlando, obtained his masters in international law from the Georgetown University Law Center, his law degree from The Catholic University of America’s School of Law and his undergraduate degree from Rollins College.

Now back at the Treasury Department, Claver-Carone has one job that’s perfectly suited for him: undoing President Obama’s normalization efforts with Cuba — fulfilling a campaign promise made by Trump in September in Miami, the heart of the Cuban exile community.

“All the concessions that Barack Obama has granted to the Castro regime were done through executive order, which means the next president can reverse them,” Trump told an enthusiastic crowd at the James L. Knight Center. “And that, I will do, unless the Castro regime meets our demands. Not my demands. Our demands.

“Those demands are religious and political freedom for the Cuban people. And the freeing of political prisoners,” Trump said.

Those words could have come directly from Claver-Carone’s Capitol Hill Cubans blog, which the 41-year-old regularly writes for as the executive director of the Cuba Democracy Advocates, a Washington, D.C., non-profit that promotes democracy and human rights in Cuba.

Claver-Carone’s expertise on Cuba has brought him before Congress repeatedly for testimony on the subject, and he’s become a go-to source for reporters, talk shows, and even an appearance on Comedy Central.

However, Claver-Carone has not spoken to a reporter since Trump tapped him for his transition team.

Continue reading USA Today: Closer look at the man advising Trump on Cuba policy

Will President Trump Force Cuba to Return Convicted Cop Killer Assata Shakur?

njpolice

TownHall

In the wake of dictator Fidel Castro’s death, President-elect Donald Trump has threatened to reverse President Obama’s executive order “normalizing” relations between the United States and Cuba.

When Obama issued the order in December 2014, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie asked for the return of Black Panther and convicted cop killer Assata Shakur, also known as Joanne Chesimard. Shakur has been living in Cuba for three decades after killing New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster in 1973. She was convicted of murder in 1977, escaped prison and in 1984, fled to Cuba. She is on the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list.

“I urge you to demand the immediate return of Chesimard before any further consideration of restoration of diplomatic relations with the Cuban government,” Christie wrote to Obama at the time. “If, as you assert, Cuba is serious about embracing democratic principles then this action would be an essential first step.”

The Cuban government responded to Christie’s request by saying they have the right to protect politically persecuted people inside their country and refused to turn over Shakur. Obama didn’t ask for her return as part of normalization, despite requests from a number of law enforcement organizations.

Cuba said Monday that it has a right to grant asylum to U.S. fugitives, the clearest sign yet that the communist government has no intention of extraditing America’s most-wanted woman despite the warming of bilateral ties.

Chesimard was granted asylum by Fidel Castro after she escaped from the prison where she was serving a sentence for killing a New Jersey state trooper in 1973 during a gunbattle after being stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike.

Asked if returning fugitives was open to negotiation, Cuba’s head of North American affairs, Josefina Vidal, told The Associated Press that “every nation has sovereign and legitimate rights to grant political asylum to people it considers to have been persecuted. … That’s a legitimate right.”
The question now becomes whether the return of Shakur will be included in Trump’s better deal for Americans when it comes to Cuba. It should be noted the United States does not have an extradition treaty with Cuba, making the task more difficult.

Death of Fidel Castro May Pressure Donald Trump on Cuba Promises

Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump speaks during the Fox Business Network Republican presidential debate at the North Charleston Coliseum, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, in North Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Wall Street Journal

The death of Fidel Castro is putting unexpected pressure on President-elect Donald Trump to follow through on earlier promises to reverse the recent openings to Cuba made by President Barack Obama.
While Mr. Trump could undo Mr. Obama’s efforts, which were implemented using executive authority, he could face pushback from U.S. companies now deeply invested in Cuba under the current administration’s policy. Those companies include major airlines, hotel operators and technology providers, while big U.S. phone carriers have signed roaming agreements on the island.

Mr. Trump’s top aides said Sunday that he would demand the release of political prisoners held in Cuba and push the government to allow more religious and economic freedoms. Reince Priebus, Mr. Trump’s incoming White House chief of staff, said the president-elect “absolutely” would reverse Mr. Obama’s policies if he didn’t get what he wanted from Cuba.

“We’re not going to have a unilateral deal coming from Cuba back to the United States without some changes in their government,” Mr. Priebus said Sunday on Fox News. “Repression, open markets, freedom of religion, political prisoners—these things need to change in order to have open and free relationships, and that’s what president-elect Trump believes, and that’s where he’s going to head.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), a critic of Mr. Obama’s opening, said Sunday on CBS that hehopes Mr. Trump will examine Mr. Obama’s changes to U.S.-Cuba policy and consider whether they foster democracy.

Ana Rosa Quintana, an expert on Latin America at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said she hopes Mr. Trump will roll back regulations that allow U.S. companies to interact with state-run entities in Cuba.

Mr. Obama announced in December 2014 that his administration had reached a deal with Cuba to begin to normalize relations. Since then, embassies have reopened in both countries, and the U.S. has loosened trade and travel restrictions to Cuba.

Despite bipartisan support, Congress has refused to lift the economic embargo on Cuba, which administration officials have said is necessary to fully normalize relations.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.), a co-sponsor of a bipartisan bill to lift the embargo, said until Republican leaders allow a vote on the legislation its supporters are “stymied.”

That gives Mr. Trump broad authority to scale back U.S. relations with Cuba, said lawyers and former officials who specialize in sanctions policy.

Regulations that allow U.S. companies to deal with Cuban state-owned entities seem the most vulnerable, such as one that allows U.S. businesses to use state-owned distributors as middlemen for deliveries to the private sector, the former officials and lawyers said.

Peter Harrell, a former senior official at the State Department who worked on sanctions in the Obama administration, said he expected Mr. Trump would “pull back some of that dealing with the Cuban state while allowing travel and private enterprise to go forward.”

Another measure Mr. Trump could reverse is Mr. Obama’s decision earlier this year to allow so-called people-to-people travel to Cuba without a tour group, a move that essentially lifted the travel ban and that critics believe went too far. According to the State Department, 700,000 Americans visited Cuba in 2015, which officials said was an increase from previous years.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see that rescinded,” said Robert Muse, a Washington-based lawyer who advises companies on doing business in Cuba.

Republican opponents of Mr. Obama’s Cuba policy—including Mauricio Claver-Carone, who is on Mr. Trump’s transition team at the Treasury Department—have been critical of a deal Starwood Hotels signed with the Cuban government earlier this year, under which the company is running a hotel once owned by the tourism arm of the Cuban military. Mr. Harrell said Mr. Trump might rethink that authorization or allowing similar licenses in the future.

Jeff Flaherty, a spokesman for Marriott International Inc., which now owns Starwood, said it was premature to assess what effect a Trump administration would have on its business in Cuba.

“It is too early to know precisely what it could mean for businesses that have invested in Cuba and are providing opportunities for the Cuban people, but we remain interested in being part of those conversations,” he said.

Mr. Claver-Carone didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Trump vows to end U.S.-Cuba ‘deal’ unless Havana makes better one

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Reuters

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump said in a tweet on Monday he would end the United States’ “deal” with Cuba unless a better one was made, reflecting his campaign pledge to reverse President Barack Obama’s moves to open relations with the Cold War adversary.

“If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal,” Trump said in a Twitter post.

Trump’s tweeted as Cubans prepare to commemorate Fidel Castro, the communist guerrilla leader who led a revolution in 1959 and ruled the Caribbean island for half a century. Castro died on Friday.

On Saturday, Trump, a Republican, said in a statement that his administration would “do all it can” once he takes office on Jan. 20 to boost freedom and prosperity for Cubans after Castro’s death.

The statement sidestepped whether Trump would follow through on a threat made late in his White House campaign to reverse Obama’s diplomatic thaw with the island nation, leading some to view it as a softening from his campaign rhetoric toward the country.

Castro’s death has led some Cubans to worry that Trump will shut down the U.S.-Cuban trade and travel ties that have begun to emerge in the past two years since Obama’s historic declaration.

Cuba has always fiercely resisted what it sees as U.S. attempts to change its internal political system but the government has stayed mostly quiet on Trump, waiting to see whether the president-elect converts his harsh rhetoric into a real policy change.

Trump adds Cuba embargo supporter to transition team

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The Miami Herald

President-elect Donald Trump Monday named Mauricio Claver-Carone, executive director of the most active pro-Cuba embargo group in Washington, to his transition team.

Claver-Carone has been one of the harshest critics of President Barack Obama’s efforts since December of 2014 to improve relations with Cuba, and his appointment to the Trump team could signal a reversal of some of those changes.

He is executive director of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy Political Action Committee (USCD PAC) as well as Cuba Democracy Advocates, a non-profit that describes itself as “a non-partisan organization dedicated to the promotion of a transition in Cuba towards human rights, democracy and the rule of law.”

The Washington Examiner reported that Claver-Carone was named to the transition team for the U.S. Department of the Treasury, where he was an attorney-adviser until November of 2003.

Trump said during the campaign that he would have negotiated a better deal with Cuba than Obama. Critics of Obama’s changes have complained that Cuba was not required to improve its human rights record or further open its economy.

Claver-Carone’s appointment to the transition team “is a clear signal … that the president-elect will carry out the promise he made to the Cuban American community,” former U.S. ambassador to Venezuela Otto Reich told the Nuevo Herald.

Reich added that the appointment does not automatically mean Claver-Carone will get a top job in the new administration, although Reich predicted that he would accept it if offered. “In my opinion, not many other people know as much about Obama’s mistakes on Cuba policy, and how to change them, as Mauricio,” he said.

In an opinion column published last week in The Miami Herald, Claver-Carone argued that Obama’s new policies on Cuba “made a bad situation worse.” U.S. policy on the island “has gone from what it initially portrayed as a noble purpose to pure sycophancy in pursuit of ‘historic firsts,’ he wrote.

Claver-Carone comments regularly on Cuba issues on his blog, Capitol Hill Cubans, and has hosted a radio program on U.S. foreign policy. A lawyer, he has taught law at the George Washington and Catholic Universities. He testified before a Congressional committee in March about Obama’s Cuba policies.

Claver-Carone has been especially critical of the Obama administration’s approval of several U.S. companies to do business with companies owned by the Cuban government and its military — as in the case of Starwood hotels. He also has attacked the lack of compensation for properties confiscated from U.S. citizens in the 1960s.

His appointment was criticized by Ric Herrero, director of CubaNow, an organization that pushes for warmer U.S. relations with Havana.

Herrero said he lamented the selection of a man “who has dedicated his long career as a lobbyist in our capital to dividing Cuban families and defending the interests of those politicians who have benefited from the failed embargo policy.”

The USCD PAC spent more $600,000 in the most recent elections, according to Federal Electoral Commission records. It made significant donations to the campaigns of Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Carlos Curbelo, as well as Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz – all critics of the Obama shifts on Cuba.

Claver-Carone did not immediately reply to requests for comments for this story.