WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa

15 Jun 2017 | Press Release

Ending Engagement with Cuba will Harm U.S. Interests and Cuban People, and Will Fail to Advance Human Rights

White House Announcement Sends Dismissive Message on Sidelines of High-Level U.S.-Central America Summit in Miami

In Miami tomorrow, President Trump is expected to announce a reversal of major elements of the Obama-era policy of engagement with Cuba, a move that would hurt U.S. interests and the Cuban people, and that would jeopardize the historic process of ongoing reform on the island, according to the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a leading research and advocacy organization advancing human rights in Latin America.

“The reform hopes of everyday Cubans should not be held hostage by political grandstanding. If the Trump administration really wants to improve conditions for everyday Cubans and advance U.S. interests, ending engagement is precisely the wrong approach,” said WOLA Senior Associate for Cuba Marguerite Jiménez.

Bilateral economic ties create the incentive for Cuba to maintain an open flow of people and ideas, and to be more responsive to U.S. and international concerns on a wide range of issues, including human rights.

Furthermore, the U.S. policy of engaging with Cuba has coincided with the most ambitious political relaxation and expansion of the boundaries of economic activity seen in decades on the island. As WOLA has noted, normalizing U.S.-Cuba relations has accelerated many of these changes, and brought hope to many Cubans eager for reforms.

Reversing engagement goes against U.S. public opinion. Polls show that most Americans, including the majority of Republicans and Cuban-Americans, support policies that ease travel and trade restrictions with Cuba. There is also broad support for engagement among human rights, business, agricultural, and religious organizations.

“The majority of Americans—even Republicans and Cuban-Americans—agree that engagement with Cuba was the right course of direction. Reversing this policy is a strong victory for a small handful of vocal members of Congress, but a great defeat for everyone else,” said Geoff Thale, WOLA’s Director of Programs.

Additionally, the announcement upstages an ongoing high-level meeting between senior government officials from the United States, Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, which is also currently taking place in Miami. The “Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America” was intended to foster cooperation on economic, security, and governance challenges facing the countries of Central America’s “Northern Triangle,” as well as showcase the future of the United States’ commitment to the region.

“In making a Cuba announcement in Miami tomorrow, President Trump is marginalizing, not supporting the presidents of Central America. He’s stepping on their message, and ignoring their presence, and launching a Cuba policy in Miami tomorrow, that the rest of the hemisphere—including a lot of our closest allies—thinks is ridiculous and offensive,” said Thale.