The Politics Behind Trump’s Cuba Folly

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Jul 22, 2:29 PM |

By Peter Schechter

The inaugural episode of the Altamar podcast takes a critical look at President Donald Trump’s Cuba rollback.

Along with featured guest James Williams, president of political advocacy group Engage Cuba, co-hosts Schechter and Jensen go beyond the impacts of the new policy and look at the forces that led Trump to pass it in the first place.

“This was a marriage of convenience,” says Williams. “[Rep. Diaz-Balart and Sen. Rubio] did this with him. The rest of the bureaucracy, all the agencies, all the experts were entirely isolated. And they did that on purpose because they knew they didn’t support it.”

Schechter laments that Trump’s directive has undone the single greatest benefit of Obama’s normalization policy: getting the U.S. out of the conversation on Cuba.

“For the first time in ages, somebody from Buenos Aires could call up a friend in Mexico City,” says Schechter, “and they could have a talk about Cuba’s appalling human rights record, or Cuba’s dismal economic situation, without having to say in the next breath, ‘Oh, but it’s the fault of the United States.’”

Responding to Trump’s claim that human rights violations were the driving force behind the directive, Schechter notes the glaring hypocrisy, while Jensen dismisses the idea altogether.

“This whole idea of wrapping yourself in the human rights flag—and Obama did it and Trump did it—as an excuse for foreign policy is outdated. It’s just as outdated as those Cubans in Miami; it’s just as outdated as the Castro brothers. There needs to be a generational and ideological change, not just in Cuba, but also in the U.S.”

The episode is available for streaming and download, together with Altamar’s second episode, on French President Emmanuel Macron, released concurrently.

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About the Hosts

Peter Schechter works in both politics and policy. He served as the Atlantic Council’s senior vice president for strategic initiatives and previously co-founded a premier strategic communications company, working as a political campaign advisor in more than 20 countries.  Muni Jensen is a former Colombian diplomat, columnist, and television political commentator.