President Donald Trump announced significant changes in U.S. policy toward Cuba during a speech delivered at the Manuel Artime Theater in Miami, Fla., on June 16, 2017. The announcement was followed by the president signing the new executive order concerning relations with Cuba.
The president was introduced by Vice President Mike Pence following brief addresses by Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Florida Governor Rick Scott. Rubio is a staunch supporter of sanctions against the Castro regime and was highly supportive of the new Cuba policy. He thanked Trump several times during his address. Rubio also made mention of the president’s concern for the Cuban people as well as the people of Venezuela. He related a conversation he had with Trump at the White House:
My wife and I had the honor of dining with [Trump] and the first lady at the White House. In the middle of that conversation he said “What are we going to do to help the Cuban people and the people of Venezuela who are also living under a dictatorship.”
Rubio went on to praise the commitment Trump has shown to ensure fundamental political freedoms for the oppressed people of Cuba.
Trump’s Best Speech so Far
Trump’s speech was carried live on radio, TV and a variety of YouTube channels. It was called by one writer, “the best speech of Trump’s career.” Perhaps that is so. It was certainly the best speech of his young presidency. The speech was very well-received with several standing ovations from the cheering crowd in the hot, packed theater.
Moreover, the speech was orchestrated masterfully. Trump began, in his usual way, by thanking the people of Florida and Miami for their support. He then continued by naming two individuals who were not there. He had hoped to have:
Jose Daniel Farar and Berta Solar who were both prevented from leaving Cuba for this event.
Then Trump introduced Carrie Roque, a former prisoner of the Castro regime. The diminutive elderly lady came on stage and thanked the president for caring about freeing Cuba. He thanked her for being there and honored her story. It was a great start to the speech.
Not a Complete Rollback of Obama’s Policies
Trump then launched into the content of the policy changes and reasons for them. He explained them clearly and plainly. He is certainly not the orator Barack Obama was, but he has the appeal of being clear. That attribute is effective in getting his points across.
The longest applause came after Trump announced that:
Effectively immediately, I am cancelling the previous administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba
However, the changes are not a complete rollback of Obama’s policies toward Cuba. Several parts of the previous policies were not altered:
For example, while banning individual self-directed travel to Cuba, trips for specific educational, government, religious, and social purposes are still permitted. The two nations will still have re-opened embassies in their capital cities.
The restrictions apply mainly to the tourism industry. The primary reason was that the money earned by open trade and tourism is not kept by the people of Cuba. About 90 percent of the funds are funneled to the Castros and the military:
The new policy will ban any commercial dealings with the military and security services. This includes prohibiting U.S. citizens from lodging at any military-owned hotels. However, Americans can still stay in privately owned homes and non-military-owned hotels, and spend money on restaurants and taxis.
Trump spelled out several demands to Cuba in order for sanctions to be lifted. First, all political prisoners must be freed. Second, that the freedom of assembly and freedom of expression “are respected.” Third, all political parties must be legalized. Fourth, free elections must be held, supervised by the international community.
A Demand to Return Fugitives From Justice
Finally, Trump demanded that Cuba stops harboring U.S. fugitives from justice. He specifically called for:
The return of the cop-killer Joanne Chesimard. And finally hand over the Cuban military criminals who shot down and killed four brave members of Brothers to the Rescue, who were in unarmed, small, slow civilian planes.
Chesimard had been serving a life sentence for murdering a New Jersey State Trooper in 1973. She escaped in 1979 and fled to Cuba where Castro granted her political asylum.
Brothers to the Rescue is a grassroots organization of Cuban-Americans whose mission is to save those lost at sea who are fleeing the island nation to come to America. In 1996, two of their private planes were shot down in international waters by the Cuban military and four men were killed.
The parents of two of those men attended the speech. They were assured by Trump that their sons “did not die in vain.”
Trump also stated that the embassies would remain open so that a better deal can be negotiated if Cuba meets the conditions of the new policy.
The Beginning of a New “Monroe Doctrine”
Trump also noted that it was:
best for America to have freedom in our hemisphere whether in Cuba or Venezuela …the Castro regime has shipped arms to North Korea and fueled chaos in Venezeula…
This is reminiscent of what was known as the “Monroe Doctrine.” That policy was announced by President James Monroe in 1823 during a speech before Congress. Monroe stated that the U.S. was not going to allow any further “colonization” by foreign powers in the “Americas.” The Monroe Doctrine was taken as U.S. policy for many decades.
When Trump mentioned that it is beneficial to the U.S. “to have freedom in our hemisphere,” he took a stance similar to Monroe. That is; the freedom of the Western Hemisphere will now be considered of particular interest to the U.S., and America will work to ensure such freedom.
An Emotional Conclusion
At the end of the speech, Trump told the true dramatic story of Luis Oza. Oza’s father was executed just after Castro took power when Luis was only eight years old. Luis loved music and soon after began to earnestly study the violin. When the communist regime saw his talent, they sought to exploit him for propaganda purposes.
When he was 12, a national TV special was organized, and the Castro regime demanded he play the violin solo for Raul Castro. He bravely refused, and soldiers came a few days later to his home and tried to force him, at gunpoint, to play for them. The boy was terrified, but he summoned the spirit to play, courageously, the “Star Spangled Banner.” That, now world-renowned, violinist and conductor concluded the speech playing that same tune, the American national anthem, on his violin. His performance was an excellent presentation of effective speaking and emotional appeal.
During this speech, Trump was at his best because he was so genuinely invested and knowledgeable in this issue of Cuban freedom. He was clear in his goal of ending the Castro dictatorship with these fundamental changes. Moreover, Trump believed it was the right thing to do. He made a convincing case for it in this speech.
Opinion News By D.T. Osborn
CBS Miami: Brothers To The Rescue Making A Comeback?CDN: Trump’s Speech on Cuba in Miami: The Best of His Career
HISTORY: MONROE DOCTRINE
NY DAILY NEWS: Trump calls on Cuba to return fugitive New Jersey cop killer Joanne Chesimard to U.S.
USA TODAY: Trump outlines new Cuba policy in speech in Miami’s Little Havana
The Washington Post: What’s changing – and not changing – in Trump’s new Cuba policy plan
Featured and Top Image by Gage Skidmore Courtesy of Wikimedia – Creative Commons License