Trump was speaking in a state with a heavy Cuban voting bloc
Trump's prepared remarks did not call for the "freeing of political prisoners"
Donald Trump said Friday that he would reverse the deal President Barack Obama struck to reopen diplomatic relations and re-establish some trade with Cuba unless the Cuban regime meets his demands to restore political freedoms and free political prisoners.
While Trump has said the US should have struck a better deal with Cuba, his new position was an apparent shift from his past statements that he supported the reopening of diplomatic relations after more than 50 years.
Trump – speaking in a state with a heavy Cuban voting bloc – characterized Obama’s deal as “one-sided” and benefiting “only the Castro regime.”
“But all of the concessions that Barack Obama has granted the Castro regime were done with executive order, which means the next president can reverse them. And that is what I will do unless the Castro regime meets our demands,” Trump said Friday.
“Those demands will include religious and political freedom for the Cuban people and the freeing of political prisoners,” Trump said.
Trump’s prepared remarks did not call for the “freeing of political prisoners,” a hefty demand Trump apparently added on the fly.
Cuba freed 53 political prisoners in January 2015 as part of its deal to reopen diplomatic relations with the United States.
The two countries officially restored full diplomatic relations in July 2015, more than 50 years after the two countries cut diplomatic relations amid Cold War tensions. The US embargo on Cuba still remains officially in place, but Obama loosened a series of regulations to allow more US companies to sell their products in Cuba. Obama has also argued that the reopening would help make Cuba a freer society by helping open the country to the world.
Asked in September 2015 about the opening with Cuba, Trump said, “I think it’s fine.”
“I think it’s fine. But we should have made a better deal. The concept of opening with Cuba — 50 years is enough — the concept of opening with Cuba is fine. I think we should have made a stronger deal,” he told The Daily Caller.
Trump also said in March that he would consider opening a hotel in Cuba.
“Maybe it won’t work out, but I will tell you, I think Cuba has a certain potential and I think it’s OK to bring Cuba into the fold,” Trump told CNN.