Tougher Trump line toward Cuba delights hardliners on island

By MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN and ANDREA RODRIGUEZ

Associated Press

HAVANA — President Donald Trump’s announcement of a tougher line toward Cuba has delighted hardliners on the island, who say it reveals the long-held U.S. aim of imposing American will on Cuba and justifies their wariness toward Washington.

The president’s speech to Cuban exiles in Miami has also dismayed moderates who were working with pro-engagement Americans but now fear association with a policy of open hostility toward the communist system could make them targets for repression.

Trump and the Cuban-American Congress members who helped design the new policy pledged on Friday that it would block the flow of U.S. cash toward military-linked enterprises and direct it toward independent businesses, with the long-term aim of overturning President Raul Castro’s government.

Members of Cuba’s small but vibrant independent civil society say they fear the new policy will do more harm than good.

“Trump’s become the independent business people’s new enemy because — even though he’s said he wants to help entrepreneurs — this new policy alienates entrepreneurs from the government,” said Angel Rodriguez, a 27-year-old sociologist who works with the Catholic Church in entrepreneurship-training programs. “That could bring them under fire now, and they could find themselves much weaker.”

Trump’s new policy retains key aspects of Obama’s reforms, leaving full embassies in Washington and Havana and letting U.S. cruise and airlines continue service to Cuba.