To unveil President Donald Trump’s new U.S.-Cuba policy, his young administration had eyed a day brimming with symbolism: May 20, Cuban Independence Day.
But as the date approached, and rumors flew in Washington and Miami about a potential announcement, the overwhelmed White House conceded none was coming. Its review of existing policy and regulation wasn’t complete — and still isn’t.
Instead, when May 20 arrived, Trump issued what Cuba considered his harshest statement yet as president about the island’s communist regime, saying that “cruel despotism cannot extinguish the flame of freedom in the hearts of Cubans.”
“The Cuban people deserve a government that peacefully upholds democratic values, economic liberties, religious freedoms, and human rights, and my administration is committed to achieving that vision,” Trump said.
The statement, released on a Saturday by a president engulfed in Russia scandals, received little national attention. But it infuriated Cuban leader Raúl Castro’s government — and started a panic among U.S. activists desperate to keep former President Barack Obama’s Cuba policy.
Now both sides of the Cuba policy debate are pressuring Trump to reject or uphold Obama’s most important foreign-policy legacy in the Western Hemisphere, with a decision from the president expected in coming weeks.
Photo credit: Al Diaz, Miami Herald staff