President-elect Donald Trump took it upon himself Monday to put political pressure on the Cuban government to deal with his incoming administration following Fidel Castro’s death.
“If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal,” Trump posted on Twitter, his preferred medium of communication in the weeks following his election.
His tweet came a day after top transition advisers signaled Trump intends to keep the hardline position on Cuba he adopted late in his presidential campaign. The message to Cuba: Do more to reciprocate the opening offered by President Barack Obama, or pay the price when the White House is under new management beginning Jan. 20.
“Clearly, Cuba is a very complex topic, and the president-elect is aware of the nuances and complexities regarding the challenges that the island and the Cuban people face,” Trump spokesman Jason Miller told reporters Monday.
He declined to say how much of a priority Cuba will be for the new administration, given Castro’s death.
“This has been an important issue, and it will continue to be one,” Miller said. “Our priorities are the release of political prisoners, return of fugitives from American law, and also political and religious freedoms for all Cubans living in oppression.”
Whether Trump would really maintain that stance had been in question because, as a celebrity real-estate developer, Trump appeared keen on doing business in Cuba. His organization sent executives to Cuba as late as 2013 to explore building a golf course on the island, in spite of the U.S. trade embargo that prohibits such investments.
As a candidate, Trump insisted he never followed through on any proposals to work in Cuba. During the campaign, Newsweek revealed Trump paid a consultant to check out potential opportunities in Cuba on his organization’s behalf in 1998.
Trump, who hasn’t given a news conference in five months, has yet to detail any Cuba specifics. He told the Miami Herald in August that he wasn’t prepared to weigh in on policies such as “wet-foot, dry-foot,” which allows Cubans who reach U.S. land to stay. He said only that he’d reject any effort by Cuba to seek reparations against the U.S. for losses the island might claim from the embargo.
McClatchy correspondent Vera Bergengruen contributed to this report from Washington.