A Cuban activist warned President-elect Donald Trump Wednesday not to accept Cuban leaders as equals, saying that Cuban officials are unlikely ever to do anything that doesn’t benefit their interests.
“The Cuban regime is never going to be a friend of the U.S., never going to be a friend of the democratic world,” Antonio Rodiles said during a discussion of Cuban policy sponsored by the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank. “They’re simply trying to keep themselves in power. The main focus needs to be on real change, a regime change in Cuba.”
Rodiles and other well-known conservatives, including former Ambassador Roger Noriega and former Ambassador Otto Reich, urged Trump to roll back President Barack Obama’s policies that have made travel to the island easier. Instead, they said, Trump should make Cuba’s human rights record critical to U.S. policy.
The Cuban regime is never going to be a friend of the U.S., never going to be a friend of democratic world.
Antonio Rodiles, Cuban activist
“Do they help the people of Cuba or do they help the government of Cuba?” Reich said about changes in U.S. policy toward Cuba. “If they helped the government of Cuba, then they should be reversed.”
That’s particularly true of U.S. policies that have eased travel to the island, said José Cárdenas, the former acting assistant administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean of the U.S. Agency for International Development. He blasted cruise lines for opening cruises to Cuban ports, calling their offerings “love cruises.”
Reich also said Trump should reverse Obama policies that allowed Cuban officials and members of the Communist Party to receive cash remittances.
Noriega said even agreements that improve Cubans’ access to the internet should be scrutinized to ensure that the Cuban government is not using U.S. companies such as Google to gather information about its people.
He urged allies in the region to do more to put pressure on the Cuban government to respect human rights and democratic principles.
“The Cuban people deserve the same rights and the same opportunities to dream of a future that everyone else in the hemisphere has,” Noriega said.