Are the new US-Cuba relations in jeopardy under Donald Trump?

Source: AP
Source: AP

During a visit to Florida 24 hours before Election Day, now President-elect Donald Trump pledged he would "stand with the people of Cuba and Venezuela in their fight against oppression" and that he would "bring jobs and education ... to Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Venezuelans and all Floridians." While this was uplifting for several Cuban-Americans who voted for Trump in Florida, such message was received with mixed feelings from those living in the island.

There is a rising concern that President Barack Obama's legacy will be in peril due to a Republican majority in Congress and with Trump as president. In fact, one of Obama's landmark decisions was to thaw U.S.-Cuba relations after more than 50 years of political estrangement. However, this may change in the next four years.

According to the Miami Herald, Trump can reverse some of the "concessions" the Obama administration made to Cuba, yet some of the commercial initiatives may not be undone. In mid-October, Obama announced that U.S. travelers could bring unlimited quantities of Cuban cigars and rum, and U.S. companies began establishing ventures and deals in Cuba.

Cubans in Miami were paying close attention to the presidential race.
Source: 
Lynne Sladky/AP

For Cuba, the main concern is the new Congress, which will be run by Republicans. By mandate, Congress has the power to lift the Cuban embargo, but this possibility may be fading away. "I'm not concerned about Trump more than I'm about [the new] Congress," Viviana Díaz Frías, a Cuban journalist living in Havana, said in an email. "There is a conservative majority, and some [members of Congress] have adopted an anti-Cuban position. We are still under a big commotion after Trump's victory."

A Cuban government employer told Mexican newspaper El Financiero that Trump being president "is not good for us, because if there was sluggishness in [bilateral] talks, it'll be worse as of this point."

Views on the Cuban embargo are mixed due to a generation chasm among Cuban-Americans. According to the Atlantic:

"A slight majority of Cuban-Americans living in Miami-Dade County who also left the island between 1959 and 1964 ... oppose reestablishing diplomatic relations with Cuba. But when it comes to Cuban-Americans who left in later years, that opposition flips, as 65% of those who came between 1981 and 1994 and 80% who came between 1995 and 2014 favor diplomatic relations with Cuba."

Several people on Twitter made note of this divide:

The Cuban-American vote in Florida may have caused some collateral damage. The Miami Herald reports Trump can deport more than 35,000 Cubans who have an arrest warrant for committing crimes in the United States, as part of the pledge he made on 60 Minutes about deporting 3 million undocumented immigrants who have faced criminal charges.

Previously, Trump expressed opposition with respect to the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act. In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times in February, he said allowing Cuban immigrants legal access to the United States is wrong and unfair. A stronger position on immigration can exacerbate a crisis hundreds of Cubans have grappled with in recent months, as they trek across a perilous journey from Cuba to South America, up through Central America and across the U.S.-Mexico border.

It remains to be seen whether Trump will upend U.S.-Cuban relations. For now, uncertainty looms large. 

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Robert Valencia

Robert is a news staff writer based in New York. His writing has appeared in the World Politics Review, Fusion, and the Miami Herald. He's a frequent guest in English- and Spanish-speaking media, including CNN, Univision, Al Jazeera, Public Radio International, and Voice of America. You can reach him at rvalencia@mic.com

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