WASHINGTON – Last Friday President Donald Trump announced new plans to restrict travel and business dealings with Cuba, generating harsh criticism from some Minnesota politicians.
“We will enforce the ban on tourism. We will enforce the embargo. We will take concrete steps to ensure that investments flow directly to the people so they can open private businesses and begin to build their country’s great, great future—a country of great potential,” Trump said during a speech in Miami.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Tom Emmer were quick to criticize the policy change, calling the move a setback.
“President Trump’s announcement today is not a total roll back, but it is a setback in U.S. – Cuba relations at a time when 73 percent of Americans want more engagement with Cuba, not less,” Klobuchar said in a statement.
The decision to further restrict relations with Cuba is a reversal of Obama-era policies. In 2015, the Obama administration restored diplomatic relations with Cuba, a move Trump has repeatedly criticized. The increase in investment and tourism funnelled money directly to the military, Trump said during the Miami speech.
“Easing of restrictions on travel and trade, does not help the Cuban people. They only enrich the Cuban regime,” Trump said.
The U.S. embassy in Cuba will remain open, and Trump has stated he will be willing to create a new deal with Cuba and President Raul Castro if the country moves towards bettering the lives of its citizens. Despite the potential of a new deal, Emmer called the move a return “to the failed policy of the past 55 years” and claims the U.S. is no closer to helping improve human rights in Cuba.
“I am extremely disappointed with President Trump’s announcement he is going to ‘roll back’ the progress made in improving our relationship with Cuba,” Emmer said in a statement. “With today’s directive, the Administration is limiting our opportunities to improve the human rights and religious liberties of the Cuban people, not expanding them. This policy decision will hurt the United States economically, making it harder for our nation’s farmers to access new markets and cutting the knees out from under our travel and manufacturing industries.”
Despite the changes in relations with Cuba, Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith recently announced she will be heading up a five-day state trade mission to Cuba this week. Other Minnesota officials participating in the trip include Sen. Julie Rosen (R-Vernon Center), Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson, and leaders of multiple Minnesota agricultural organizations. Klobuchar praised the move, stressing the importance of maintaining trade relations with Cuba to avoid other countries claiming trade opportunities left vacant by the U.S. backing out of the country.
Klobuchar and Emmer have long fought against the Cuba-trade embargo, leading efforts in Congress to lift the embargo and encourage trade between the U.S. and Cuba. Last year, Klobuchar and Emmer joined President Barack Obama on his visit to Cuba, the first visit from an American president since Calvin Coolidge in 1928.
Emmer slammed Trump for reversing the Obama-era policies, claiming the “overwhelming majority” of Americans favor improving relations with Cuba.
“I hope as we go forward, the President will remember he was elected to challenge the status quo – not to be part of it,” Emmer said in a statement. “We will be on the right side of history and lift this failed embargo.”