Washington, DC— Yesterday, the Trump administration announced that it would end decades-long U.S. policy towards Cuba by allowing U.S. citizens to file lawsuits over property seized after the 1959 revolution, while also expanding restrictions on remittances and non-family travel to Cuba. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the president’s national security advisor John Bolton have said that these actions are meant to pressure Cuba to withdraw its support for Nicolás Maduro’s government in Venezuela and to compel internal changes in Cuba. According to research and advocacy group the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), this punitive approach is unlikely to change Cuban policy on Venezuela or force change in Cuba itself. It will only cause greater suffering for Cubans.
“The new policies have been justifiably condemned by various leading Members of Congress, the U.S.-Cuba Business Council of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, other U.S. business coalitions, and important international allies like the European Union and Canada. Congressman McGovern put it best when he described this move as ‘just plain stupid,’” said WOLA Vice President for Programs Geoff Thale.
Under the new policies, remittances sent by U.S. citizens to family in Cuba will be limited to $1,000 per person every three months. Previously, remittances were unlimited and played a major role in helping Cuban families and strengthening the Cuban private sector. Meanwhile, the limits on non-family travel to Cuba are expected to gravely impact Cuba’s important hospitality sector as well as other tourism-related industries.
The other change in U.S. policy on Cuba will involve the full implementation of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act. This will allow U.S. citizens to file lawsuits against foreign companies that have investments involving land confiscated during the Cuban Revolution. The Washington Post reported that some 6,000 of these potential lawsuits could result in tens of billions of dollars in claims against foreign and Cuban businesses, as well as Cuban government entities.
“This latest move by the Trump administration only punishes the Cuban people and alienates our allies,” said Thale. “Fewer travelers to Cuba also means fewer opportunities for Cubans and U.S. visitors to interact and engage with one another, sharing ideas and information. 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.”
The Trump administration has largely reversed President Obama’s opening of relations with Cuba, even though polls show that the majority of Americans support lifting the embargo and more travel and trade with Cuba.
“Rather than trying to pass off bullying as diplomacy, the way forward needs to be more engagement, more travel, and more trade opportunities between the U.S. and Cuba,” said Thale.