Trump planning to reverse Cuba policy, sources say

President Obama initiated the re-normalization of relations in 2014

ByABC News
June 9, 2017, 11:48 PM

— -- President Donald Trump is poised to roll back another of his predecessor's signature accomplishments -- the re-normalization of U.S. relations with Cuba, according to multiple congressional and advocacy organization sources with direct knowledge of the administration's intentions, and will likely announce changes to the policy next Friday in Miami.

President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro initiated the process in 2014, overturning decades of diplomatic hostility, economic and business restrictions, and constraints on travel between the two countries that had its roots in the Cold War.

Possible changes to the countries' relationship include establishing regulations for businesses interested in working in the Cuban market; redefining the what it means to be a part of the Cuban government or military -- which could affect business operations because most contracts are made with the government; reinstating caps or outright banning imports from the country; and reconfirming the licensing structure that would rescind the system that has allowed for easier travel to the country.

A U.S. official said that a roll out of the curtailment is likely next week, but noted that the plan could be pushed back as the details are still being finalized. On Friday, the National Security Council met to finalize their policy and recommendations for the Principals Committee to bring to Trump, according to sources briefed on the matter.

U.S. businesses have established 26 agreements with the Cuban government from 2015 to 2017 as the standoff has thawed. These include a number of airlines and cruise lines providing travel to and from the island, telecommunications companies establishing voice traffic and data pacts, and Google, which could expand internet access within the country. The number of U.S. citizens visiting Cuba increased 74 percent from 2015 to 2016, according to the Cuban Ministry.

The possible proposed changes would increase regulations that would make it more difficult for corporations to make deals with Cuba and for Americans to continue to travel to the country. Trump often decries regulations on the business community as "burdensome" and "job-killing."

Two prominent Cuban-Americans on Capitol Hill, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Florida, who represents a South Florida district with a number of Cuban-Americans, were staunch opponents to Obama's actions and have lobbied the administration to follow through on Trump's promises to overturn them.

"I am confident the president will keep his commitment on Cuba policy by making changes that are targeted and strategic and which advance the Cuban people's aspirations for economic and political liberty," said a statement from Rubio.

ABC News further confirmed, with two sources with direct knowledge of the conversations, a suggestion first reported by The New York Times in March that Diaz-Balart agreed to support the Republican efforts to replace the Affordable Care Act in exchange for a promise that the White House would act on Cuba.

Diaz-Balart on Friday, denied on Twitter that a deal was made.

Calls placed on Friday evening by ABC News to a spokesperson for Diaz-Balart were not immediately returned.

In a statement issued by Diaz-Balart last week in response to ABC News' request for comment, the congressman said, "It is my duty to advocate for the issues that are important to my constituents, and I will not apologize for using every available avenue to effectively resolve them." He did not issue an explicit denial at the time.

On Friday, two groups of pro-Cuban engagement congressional Republicans penned letters to Trump, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and national security adviser H.R. McMaster, respectively, to voice objection to a reversal. The groups cited the threat of Cuba becoming "dependent on countries like Russia and China," among other economic and national security-focused rationale.

Members of Trump's Cabinet offered mixed opinions on the matter in previous remarks. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he would advise against settling the Obama administration's policy as recently as January when The Washington Post reported that he said the U.S. "did not hold them accountable for their behavior, and their leaders received much, while their people received little."

"That did not help Cubans or Americans," he said.

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue led a delegation to Cuba in 2010 while governor of Georgia. In comments to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he appeared supportive of opening trade opportunities and the subsequent benefits.

“I’m a business guy who happens to be governor, and I’m going to be a business guy after I’m governor,” said Perdue. “I think business cures a lot of ills.”

This story has been updated to include additional reporting, as well as a statement from Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, given to ABC News when the story was originally published

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