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Atkins: Cuba fears prez could wipe out island’s gains
Kimberly Atkins Tuesday, March 07, 2017

NO LONGER JUST HANGING ON: Cuba’s begun to see a revival since former
President Barack Obama restored diplomatic ties with the island nation.

HAVANA — Raul Castro is not the only Cuban who is blasting President
Trump’s foreign policy.

Many residents of the Caribbean nation, which is in the midst of a rapid
transformation as a direct result of former President Barack Obama
restoring diplomatic ties and easing travel restrictions between the
countries, criticized Trump and praised his predecessor for bringing
Americans to their shores.

Castro, the Cuban president, called Trump’s foreign policy, including
his plans to build a Mexican border wall, “irrational” and “egotistical”
in a speech in Venezuela that was broadcast on Cuban state-run
television on Sunday night.

Those words could draw a sharp rebuke from Trump, an admitted
counterpuncher who’s currently reviewing U.S.-Cuban policy, but who was
strongly critical of Obama’s Cuban moves. Trump has aligned himself with
Florida Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who wants to reverse Obama’s
actions.

That’s not a popular stance with Cubans, who are pleased with the
country’s fast-moving progress. Though American tourism is still
technically prohibited, most travelers can fit into one of 12 categories
to qualify for a general purpose visa. New hotels dot the main
thoroughfares in Havana, and Airbnb rentals get a steady stream of
business in outlying beach communities like Boca Ciega.

Still, the country displays its hardships visibly. New restaurants are
often bookended by crumbling structures. And while the internet is newly
available, it’s expensive and still relatively scarce. People can be
seen into the late hours huddled around Wi-Fi hot spots, their faces
illuminated by the their cellphones as they vie for relatively weak
bandwidth.

“One way to change (Cuba) is to get more Americans to visit,” and to
lift the trade embargo, said U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, a Salem Democrat
who traveled to the country last month.

Carlos Arias, a taxi driver in Havana, agrees.

“In the last 18 months, I’ve seen business go up, maybe 80 percent,” he
said. “What Obama did changed everything. Everybody loves it.”

Asked if he feared that Trump would reverse U.S.-Cuban policies, Arias
said: “No. He wouldn’t dare. He’s a businessman.”

While Rubio and other foes of Obama’s Cuban policies say they won’t
support a Castro communist regime that harms its citizens, other
lawmakers said isolating the nation only hurts them more. Plus, they
say, Cubans have had a taste of what normal relations with the U.S.
feels like, and it would be almost impossible to reverse that now.

“There’s lots of opportunity, and I think engagement is always better
than isolationism,” said U.S. Rep. James McGovern, a Worcester Democrat
who has co-sponsored a number of bills to ease Cuban relations,
including one to lift the remaining travel restrictions. “And so I don’t
know what Trump is going to do. He has said some things that would have
you believe he will turn back the clock. But even if he does, I don’t
think they can put the genie back into the bottle.”

Source: Atkins: Cuba fears prez could wipe out island’s gains | Boston
Herald –
www.bostonherald.com/news/columnists/kimberly_atkins/2017/03/atkins_cuba_fears_prez_could_wipe_out_island_s_gains

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