President Trump announced Friday that the U.S. would strengthen economic and diplomatic sanctions on Cuba, undoing an Obama policy of more open relations with the Castro regime that Trump called “terrible and misguided.”
Speaking to an audience of Cuban human-rights activists and officials in Miami’s Little Havana, Trump signed an order reinstating broad sanctions against the Cuban government, including a tourism ban.
“We will not lift sanctions on the Cuban regime,” Trump said, “until all political prisoners are freed, freedoms of assembly and expression are respected, all political parties are legalized, and free and internationally supervised elections are scheduled.”
Trade with Cuba will not be cut off completely, however. Under the new policy, the U.S. is prohibited from trading with or purchasing from establishments owned by the Castro military and government, including state-run restaurants and hotels. But U.S. dollars will still be able to go to small businesses owned by private citizens, which Cuba legalized in 2016.
“We will very strongly resist American dollars flowing to the military, security, and intelligence services that are at the core of the Castro regime,” Trump said. “We will take concrete steps to ensure that investments flow directly to the people so they can open private businesses and begin to build their country’s great, great future.”
Of course, many Cuban small businesses will still be affected by the new policy—particularly those in the small but lucrative tourism trade that has sprung up since Americans were permitted to begin visiting Cuba again last year. As Marla Recio, a Cuban event planner, told the New York Times: “It’s not just the people who have rental homes or who have a private business specifically targeted at an American audience like myself. But there are also the people who have simple cafeterias or beauty salons whose audience is mainly Cuban, and those people are also stimulated by the flow of people who bring money to the island.”
Others view the new policy as striking a good balance between supporting the Cuban people and rebuking the Castro regime. According to Mike Gonzalez, an expert in international studies at the Heritage Foundation, it’s a move in the right direction.
“This is not a complete reversal. It’s not even reactive to Obama; this is more proactive,” Gonzalez said. “I think today was a good day. The Obama policy failed for the dissidents. … It just failed, because Obama asked for nothing and he got nothing in return.”
In his speech, Trump maintained that the new policy would benefit the peoples both of Cuba and America.
“Now that I am president, America will expose the crimes of the Castro regime, and stand with the Cuban people in their struggle for freedom,” Trump said. “Because we know it is best for America to have freedom in our hemisphere, whether in Cuba or in Venezuela, and have a future where the people of each country can live out their own dreams.”
Introducing the president, Senator Marco Rubio said that today’s action was not an ultimate solution, but one step in a long-term plan to bring real freedom to the Cuban people.
“Mark my words,” Rubio said. “Whether it’s in six months or six years, Cuba will be free, and when it is, I believe the people on the island and in history will say that perhaps the key moment in that transition began on this day … with a president that was willing to do what needed to be done so that freedom and liberty returns to the enslaved island of Cuba.”
This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard