Besides pledging to “expose the crimes of the Castro regime” and empower Cubans, Trump also demanded the release of political prisoners and called for free and fair elections.
“With God’s help, a free Cuba is what we will soon achieve,” Trump said.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce doubts that the announced policy will help achieve its intended results.
“Unfortunately, today’s moves actually limit the possibility for positive change on the island and risk ceding growth opportunities to other countries that, frankly, may not share America’s interest in a free and democratic Cuba that respects human rights,” said Myron Brilliant, head of international affairs at the Chamber of Commerce, in a statement.
Christopher Sabatini, professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, argued that Trump’s policy could actually perpetuate Cuba’s isolation and social stasis.
“The Obama policy, even if you disagree with it, was based on comparative history—that openness has brought democratic change in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union,” he said. “We’ve never imposed as tight of an embargo on any country as we have on Cuba, and Cuba’s non-democratic regime remains.”
If anything, the White House’s shift could temporarily help the Castro regime, Eurasia Group’s Grais-Targow said, noting that the Communist leadership often points to America’s cold shoulder “as a source of its own legitimacy.”
“It’s a really good scapegoat for problems on the island,” she said.