President-elect Donald Trump warned Monday that he would “terminate” U.S. diplomatic and economic outreach to Cuba unless Havana undertakes unspecified steps to benefit its people, Cuban-Americans and the United States.
“If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal,” Trump said on Twitter.
The president-elect’s comment came two days after Trump greeted Fidel Castro’s death with a statement that notably did not repeat campaign-trail promises to roll back President Obama’s historic outreach to Cuba. Since Election Day, Trump has seemed to soften some of his hard-line campaign promises, leaving it unclear exactly what he’ll do on issues like Cuba when he takes office on Jan. 20.
Trump did not spell out what a “better deal” would look like, though Republican critics of Obama’s strategy have underlined that his approach has not led to greater political and religious freedom in Cuba, while economic reforms have come slowly and fitfully.
On Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said, “The major priority now is to make sure Cubans in Cuba have the same freedoms that Cubans here in America have, which is political, religious and economic freedom, make sure those political prisoners are finally released into freedom.” She also said the Trump administration wanted to ensure that Cuba extradites American fugitives to “face the law.”
But Conway declined to spell out what specific steps Trump would take, or whether he would keep some parts of Obama’s approach in place. “None of that has been decided,” she told moderator Chuck Todd.
Obama has taken Cuba off the U.S. government list of state sponsors of terrorism while easing restrictions on U.S. citizen travel to Cuba and on economic relations generally, and the two Cold War foes have reopened embassies in their respective capitals. The Obama White House has worked to make his approach “irreversible,” and aides privately predict that Trump won’t crack down on Americans traveling to Cuba or Cuban-Americans sending money to their relatives there.
But many of Obama’s steps came by executive action, meaning that Trump could decide to roll them back when he takes office on Jan. 20.