In Miami, Trump morphs back into a Cuba hardliner


Donald Trump criticized “all the concessions that Barack Obama made to the Castro regime”. | Getty

Donald Trump once called President Barack Obama’s rapprochement with Cuba “okay” and said that “50 years is enough” for the US embargo, even though he had a better deal.

But during a Friday rally in Miami, Trump sounded a lot like any other Republican presidential candidate who pledged to hold a hard line against Cuba while seeking the support of the influential Cuban-American exile community.

“All the concessions that Barack Obama made to the Castro regime were made by order of the executive, which means that the next president can reverse them – and I will, unless the Castro regime complies with our demands . Not my demands. Our demands, ”said Trump as 2,500 supporters cheered him on.

“These demands are religious and political freedom for the Cuban people. And the liberation of political prisoners, “Trump said before asking if he hit the right pro-embargo notes:” Is that right? “

The crowd cheered.

These demands for a free Cuba have been US policy for years. And Trump once stood firmly with the exile community on this issue. But as a presidential candidate in that cycle, Trump began tempering his position and was less enthusiastic about the embargo, a sentiment shared even by the changing Cuban-American community in Miami-Dade County, where 54 percent are now the Advocate lifting of sanctions in new poll.

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Democrat Hillary Clinton last year called for the embargo to be lifted by her husband, President Bill Clinton, after the Cuban plane was shot down by a Miami-based Cuban rafter aid group called “Brothers to the Rescue.”

For one of the exiled community leaders, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) – whose brother, former Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), Had pressured Clinton to codify the embargo into one The election year change – Trump’s response was welcome. Unsure of Trump’s position on Cuba, Diaz-Balart has been asking Trump for months to clarify where he stands on this and other foreign policy issues.

But Trump has yet to respond, despite his Friday speech comforting Diaz-Balart.

“That’s a big statement. And it’s an important statement, ”Diaz-Balart said of Trump’s comments. “And it showed that he understands reality. It’s a great contrast between the appeasement of Obama-Clinton policies.”

Trump’s return to a tough embargo policy has a clear political advantage. Miami-Dade, where 72 percent of registered Republicans are Hispanics (and almost all Cuban Americans), has more Republicans than any other county in the state. It was also the only county that voted for its opponent on March 15 in the primary of the president, hometown son and Senator Marco Rubio, who was eliminated from the race and is now running for re-election.

Polls show Trump easily leads Clinton in Florida, but lukewarm Cuban-American support could cost him Florida, a state he must win to keep his White House hopes alive.

Trump’s visit and speech in Miami wasn’t just limited to Cuban Americans. He spoke of solidarity with Venezuela, whose exile in South Florida is increasing as the South American government becomes increasingly totalitarian. Before that, he met with a group of leaders from the Haitian community.

Still, Cuban Americans are vital to Trump. And the lack of top exiled leaders at his rally was remarkable.

While Rubio has endorsed Trump, most of the major Republican leaders in the Cuban-American community in Miami-Dade are staying away from the GOP nominee, many because of his harsh immigration rhetoric. Diaz-Balart is the only one of the three members of the Cuban-American Republican House to support Trump, albeit lukewarm.

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When asked for his opinion on Obama’s Cuban policy a year ago, Trump told the Daily Caller, “I think it’s okay. I think it’s okay, but we should have got a better deal. The concept of opening with Cuba – 50 years is enough – the concept of opening with Cuba is fine. I think we should have made a stronger deal. “

During a key Republican president debate in Miami in March, Trump made sure he criticized Obama’s deal but said, “I think I’m somewhere in the middle. What I want is that I want to do a much better business because Cuba is doing right now – as usual in our country, we are not doing good business. We don’t have the right people to negotiate, we have people who have no idea. “

Trump’s opponent at the time, Rubio, scoffed at the idea of ​​negotiating with Cuba if it didn’t meet US demands.

“I’ll tell you now what the good business is, it’s already codified. Here’s a good deal: Cuba has free elections, Cuba stops putting people in jail for speaking out, Cuba has freedom of the press, ”said Rubio. “Cuba throws out the Russians … and the Chinese out … Cuba is no longer helping North Korea to evade UN sanctions. Cuba is taking all of these American justice refugees, including the New Jersey cop killer, and sending them back to the US and to prison, where they belong. And you know what? Then we can have a relationship with Cuba. It’s a good deal. “

Then, in an interview with The Miami Herald in August, Trump gave a detail about what his version of an agreement with Cuba would include: preventing Cuba from seeking redress for losses allegedly caused by the U.S. embargo.

Trump did not reveal any further details on Friday but insisted that “great offers be made before we do anything to Cuba or anyone else”.

“How many people from Cuba come here?” Trump asked when so much of the crowd stood up and cheered. “We do it with great offers. We’re going to do it with democracy and we’re going to do it the way we have to. We will do it right. “

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