Suddenly and decisively, the Trump administration on Tuesday ended the most popular form of U.S. travel to Cuba by prohibiting American cruise ships from stopping on the island — financial punishment for Cuba’s continued support to the illegitimate regime of Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro.
This is a head-turning move we’re not used to — a U.S. administration playing hardball with Cuba, post the 1980s Ronald Reagan days. In this case, it’s the right reaction.
Cuba should be slapped for the communist island’s continued support and meddling to help keep Maduro in power as Venezuela burns, while the U.S. and other Latin countries who are members of the Lima Group have spent months of diplomatic capital to remove Maduro.
Commerce Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Cuba is being punished “for playing a destabilizing role in the Western Hemisphere.” Refreshing to hear the U.S. call out human rights abuser Cuba without equivocating.
We think the new restrictions will send a stinging message that will get Cuba to realize there is a prize to pay for its interference in the Venezuelan crisis, as the country is near bankruptcy and its people lack food and medicine. So the U.S. is hitting Cuba where it hurts the most: by closing the U.S. tourism pocketbook opened in 2016.
But South Florida is in the middle. The four largest cruise companies in the world — Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, and MSC Cruises, all based in South Florida — will take a financial hit, too. They had seven ships scheduled to sail to Cuba this month.
That’s not all: the Department of Commerce is also prohibiting recreational and pleasure vessels from departing the U.S. on temporary sojourns to Cuba, as well as ending educational travel, effective Wednesday.
Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio praised the move. “The Trump administration deserves tremendous credit for holding accountable the Cuban regime,” said Rubio, who has been pushing for an end to Maduro’s regime. He’s right. The announcement implements some of the new policies hinted at by National Security Adviser John Bolton in Miami last April.
Taking away a chunk of Cuba’s U.S. tourism money couldn’t have come at a worse time for the island, where the nation is already entering what the government likes to call “a special period” — special because there will be a lack of food and fuel, fuel Venezuela used to supply to the island, but can’t now. Who will be hardest hit by this action? Yes, the long-suffering Cuban people.
For months, the U.S insistence that Cuba stop interfering in Venezuela, as usual, has fallen on deaf ears with the island government, which has sent supplies and military manpower to Venezuela.
The crisis in Venezuela must be resolved before it takes down the entire region, or it becomes another Cuba, Maduro opponents say.
The Maduro regime — with the help of Russia as well as Cuba — is not only oppressing the Venezuelan people, but impacting neighboring Colombia, which has seen more than one million Venezuelans cross its border seeking refuge. South Florida, too, has welcomed thousands who have fled.
Maduro hijacked his country’s last election and needs to leave and allow the return of democracy to Venezuela. The U.S. is right to pressure Maduro.
Cuba, of course, where the Castro brothers remained in power for nearly 60 years, is sabotaging the U.S.-led efforts.
With its continued meddling, the Cuban government has placed itself in the line of fire of the Trump administration — a fight it is likely to lose.