By Arnold August*, June 13, 2017
This week, Cuba is once again at the very center of American politics arising out of the controversy over the Cuba policy. However, to date, you would never know judging by the mainstream conglomerate media. Nonetheless, since the unofficial news broke on June 9 regarding Trump’s Miami visit and its purpose, there has been what seems to be an unprecedented daily (and now almost hourly) issuing of statements, positions and letters. The common denominator is a demand to not only allow trade and travel to continue under the new Cuba policy, but to end restrictions altogether.
The other feature is that this movement is bipartisan. It is quite ironic that while virtually all other domestic and foreign policy issues are being fought along party or state lines, Cuba (of all countries) has succeeded in forging an American majority public opinion irrespective of party affiliation and business interests. Who would have thought a few years ago that it could happen? From “Republican” Texas (with its conveniently close ports to Havana’s harbour) to Midwestern farm states that voted for Trump (but view Cuba as an important market for agricultural products), from travel giants such as Airbnb, cruise lines and airlines to Republicans and Democrats in Congress, to the influential educators and the university community, everyone is making their views known in their own communiqués.
There have been so many such statements that the initial goal of this article, which was to enumerate, define and briefly quote them all had to be abandoned, as it would have been much too cumbersome for this short piece. (However, in my latest book Cuba–U.S. Relations: Obama and Beyond, this trend is already documented and analyzed.)
The pro-trade and travel Cuba policy majority is so widespread and diversified that one gets the impression that the only ones who have not joined are a couple (literally) of members of Congress from Miami and New Jersey. When Trump speaks in Miami this Friday, he will be addressing only a small minority of his very own party and his non-elected Cabinet. It would seemingly be political suicide for him to buck the trend. Of course, we already know that the Cuba policy rhetoric will be stamped with the Trump trademark, but what about the specifics on trade and travel?
In fact, on June 13, Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson testified before a Congressional Committee. It was said that it would provide a preview of the Trump Cuba policy announcement. However, it was not very different from what Trump declared in the past.
Will those ideologically-prone Cabinet members get the upper-hand over Trump the businessman and pragmatic politician?
We will see Friday. In the meantime, hundreds if not a few thousand people are keeping up the pressure through a very broad-based active social media campaign. There are also demonstrations being organized this week in Miami and New York to express the majority public opinion. The common demand: End Travel and Trade Restrictions!
*Arnold August is a Montreal-based author and journalist. His third book on Cuba is entitled Cuba–U.S. Relations: Obama and Beyond www.CubaUSRelations.com