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In Florida, impact of Trump's Cuba policy called 'muted’ by some. Others not so sure

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio praised President Trump's policy shift on Cuba. (Lynne Sladky / Associated Press)
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio praised President Trump's policy shift on Cuba. (Lynne Sladky / Associated Press)

For nearly six decades opinions about Cuba have been divided, so it’s no surprise reaction varied widely Friday after President Trump announced that he was “completely cancelling” the “terrible and misguided deal” by President Obama that opened relations with Cuba.

Speaking in Little Havana, the epicenter of anti-Castro movements in Miami, Trump said rules on American travel to Cuba will be tightened, but airlines and cruise ships will continue to visit the Caribbean island. The new rules also prohibit Americans from spending money on businesses controlled by the military.  

Sebastian Arcos, associate director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University, said Trump’s speech wasn’t a “big deal” because, fundamentally, not much is changing.

“The changes he announced today are not a cancellation of Obama’s policy,” Arcos said from Boca Raton. “Many components of the original [Obama] policy stay the same. [Trump] used the word ‘cancellation,’ but he’s leaving many aspects of the policy untouched.”

Others, however, called Trump’s decision disastrous, a marked shift in the dynamic over the last two years, said Albert Fox, president of the Tampa-based Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation, which advocates for engagement with the Cuban government.

“It's a very big deal. People don’t understand how big it is,” Fox said from Tampa. “Trump’s speech was the worst form of political pandering I’ve seen in 50 years.”

“Those of us that are in favor of engagement with the Cuban government don't understand [Trump’s] policy – nobody does, even his own people,” Fox continued. “More human rights abuses and violations happened today in Cairo than have happened in years in Cuba.”

President Trump had said in his speech on Friday that “executions” were still a problem in Cuba. 

“There hasn't been an execution in Cuba in 10 years,” Fox countered.

Florida Republican lawmakers who urged Trump to scale back Obama’s Cuban overtures voiced support for the president.

“Economic practices that benefit the Cuban military at the expense of the Cuban people will soon be coming to an end #BetterDealforCuba,” Sen. Marco Rubio said on Twitter.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who represents parts of Miami, told Fox News, “Our partners are not the Cuban regime. Our partners have to be the Cuban people.” 

He described Trump’s move as a “win-win” victory for Cuba and the U.S. He also noted that Trump will not lift sanctions or the 56-year-old embargo in place until free and fair elections are held in Cuba. “Is that too much to ask for?” 

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