WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

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26 Apr 2019 | News

Analyzing the Trump Administration’s New ‘Punitive Beyond Belief’ Cuba Policies

WOLA’s Marguerite Jimenez Assesses the Damage from Rolling Back U.S Engagement with Cuba

Washington, DC—The Trump administration’s recent decision to gut several policies of engagement with Cuba, and instead implement a more punitive approach purportedly meant to change Cuba’s position on Venezuela, has been widely condemned by Members of Congress, the U.S. business community, and international allies (including the European Union, Spain, Canada, and Mexico). In a recent interview with podcast Pod Save the World, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) Director for Cuba Marguerite Rose Jiménez described how this escalation of aggressive policies will damage U.S interests and cause greater suffering for Cubans.

“The administration…[has] consistently said, we’re doing these things to benefit the Cuban people, when in fact, all of things that they’ve done recently… directly, negatively affects the Cuban people,” said Jiménez.

During the interview, Jimenez discussed the potential impact of these new policies. The severe restrictions placed on remittances sent by U.S. citizens to family in Cuba—which were previously unlimited, but have now been reduced to just $4,000 per year per person—amounts to an attack on the “lifeblood of the Cuban private sector” that could strangle the island’s economy, Jimenez asserted, describing the policy as “just punitive beyond belief.”

Jimenez pointed out how the Trump administration’s approach is a dramatic break from previous Republican and Democratic presidencies, and has been met with significant pushback. Since 1996, every president has waived the Title III provision of the Helms-Burton Act which would allow U.S. citizens to file punitive lawsuits against businesses from third countries if they have interests in properties seized during the Cuban Revolution. However, the Trump administration has decided to let the provision go into effect, despite the legal mess that this will create by opening the door for thousands of lawsuits involving tens of billions of dollars in property claims, Jimenez stated.

Additionally, the Trump administration’s decision to restrict non-family travel to Cuba will impact not only Cuban businesses, but the U.S. tourism and travel sector as well, Jimenez noted. However, Cuban Americans and their families will likely bear the brunt of this return to hardline policies which, as evidenced over past decades, have failed to bring promised changes to the island, and have not made the lives of the Cuban people any easier, said Jimenez.

Listen to Jimenez’s interview with Pod Save the World here.

“As past decades of failed U.S. policies have shown, isolating Cuba and trying to choke off its economy is not going to bend the country to U.S. will and certainly will not encourage internal debate or economic and political reform,” said WOLA Vice President for Programs Geoff Thale in a press release published last week.

See WOLA’s other resources on Cuba:

  • Press release: the Trump administration’s new Cuba policies only punishes the Cuban people and alienates U.S. allies.
  • Commentary: Change is coming gradually, but undeniably, to Cuba, as evidenced in a new constitution that officially became effective earlier this month. This explainer breaks down the reforms contained within the new constitution and examines what lies ahead as Cuba moves to implement some of the most significant political, electoral, and legal system reforms in decades.