Clearly aiming at the Cuban-American vote in Florida, Donald Trump told a rally in Miami that as president he would suspend the normalization of relations with Cuba unless the Castro brothers meet certain conditions. Those conditions would be to grant the Cuban people certain religious and political freedoms that the rulers of that island nation have denied them for decades, according to the Washington Examiner.

At the time President Barack Obama decided to normalize relations with Cuba last year Trump appeared to support the move. The argument for normalization was that 50 or so years of confrontation had not moved the communist tyranny one iota so that it was time for a different approach. Besides, the United States has diplomatic relations with another of other countries whose human rights abuses are just as bad, China for example.

However, two of Trump’s rivals for the presidency, Cuban-American senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, argued that normalization constituted capitulation to the Havana regime. The United States got nothing in a deal that entirely benefited the Castro dictatorship. The move might even lead to a lifting of the economic embargo which would tend to prop up the regime, which maintains a tight grip on the Cuban economy.

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Donald Trump

Trump, who is obsessed with what he considers bad trade deals with other countries such as NAFTA, seems to have come around to the view held by Cruz and Rubio. The normalization of relations with Cuba is just the latest agreement that he intends to renegotiate after the fact. That his new position might prove attractive to many Cuban Americans is no doubt considered a happy side effect by Team Trump.

The new position also puts Hillary Clinton in an uncomfortable position. As Obama’s first secretary of state, she will have to support the deal with Cuba. Trump could, therefore, try to suggest that his opponent favors the continued repression of the Cuban people by throwing away the leverage that the United States had over the Castro regime. He could even propose doubling down on economic pressure on Havana.

It should be noted that the Castro brothers are in their 80s and must, as all do, die shortly. Perhaps whoever follows might be more amenable to reforming Cuba’s economic and political system.

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