Donald Trump: I Refused Business in Cuba Because Supporting Human Rights Was ‘No-Brainer’

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

With President Obama’s legitimization of Cuba making headlines, turn-of-the-century writings by Donald Trump suggest he would have striven to extradite and imprison Cuba’s leaders, not line their pockets, if president.

Unearthed by Babalú Blog contributor and friend of Breitbart Humberto Fontova, a 1999 Miami Herald column by Trump hidden in the depths of the internet reveals that he had an opportunity to build hotels in Havana through European corporations, legally avoiding the restrictions of the American embargo on the communist regime there, but he declined them.

“Several large European investment groups have asked me to take the `Trump Magic’ to Cuba,” he wrote, asserting that “we would make a fortune” if he were to collaborate with European entities already established there. He ultimately declined to do business in Cuba, he said, because, “I had a choice to make: huge profits or human rights. For me, it was a no-brainer.”

The column also tackles the embargo head-on and why none of the arguments in favor of normalization ring true with him. At the time, he noted, “foreign investors are not allowed to hire or pay Cuban workers. They must pay the government directly for the workers.” For every $10,000 in profit, he estimated, Cuban workers would see $10 a month, and the communist regime would pocket the rest. “Almost every dollar would go to his police state,” he wrote.

While lamenting the “millions” he could have made investing in Cuba, Trump concluded, “I’d rather lose those millions than lose my self-respect. I would rather take a financial hit than become a financial backer of one of the world’s most-brutal dictators, a man who was once willing to aid in the destruction of my country.”

Trump was, at the time, considering running for president. As a way of introducing Americans who knew him exclusively as a real estate businessman and board game developer, he published The America We Deserve in 2000, which Fontova notes also includes a subchapter on Cuba. Much of the material is taken from the Miami Herald column, and he indeed mentions both the column and the positive feedback he received from the Cuban exile community following its publication.

Of Castro, Trump does not mince words. “He’s run a nasty and vicious little dictatorship, caused immense suffering to his people, and he talks way too much,” he writes on page 135. He calls for the extradition of Castro to the United States to be tried on terrorism charges, noting that Spain did the same to Chilean military leader Augusto Pinochet, who was not charged with crimes against Spain:

Pinochet is no angel but his crimes pale in comparison to the reign of terror unleashed by Castro […]

The first time Castro leaves Cuba for any nation we have extradition treaties with, he should be detained, arrested and extradited to the U.S. for indictment and trial on charges of murder and terrorism […]

Fidel is a criminal. Let’s treat him like one.

He goes on to call the normalization process proposed by Clinton– and ultimately set in motion by President Obama in December– “pure lunacy.”

Fontova cautions voters who prioritize the Cuban issue that these statements were made more than a decade ago, and, as a bona fide politician now, Trump’s position could have “evolved.” In fact, one of the few comments Trump has made during this election cycle regarding Cuba has been: “I’m ok with working with Cuba but we should have made a better deal, a much stronger deal.”

Some things have changed in Cuba since his more hardline comments, of course. Raúl Castro has taken over for his brother, and the internet has become an indispensable tool for Cuban dissidents to fight for their rights.

But much more has not. Cuba still imposes an apartheid system that bans Cuban citizens from patronizing luxury hotels. Cuban nationals are allowed to work for foreign corporations, but the communist regime still pockets 92% of their salaries. The days of 20-year political prison sentences are (mostly) over, replaced by week incarcerations for crimes such as attending mass and protesting yanqui President Barack Obama.

Another thing that hasn’t changed is that Cuba still doesn’t boast a Trump hotel.

With the exception of presidential candidates with a personal interest in seeing the Castro dictatorship eradicated (Sens. Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz) or a large percentage of Cuban constituents (Gov. Chris Christie), Cuba has been relegated to a tangential issue in the 2016 race, below gay wedding cakes but slightly more important than conversion to the metric system. Even if Trump has eased his thinking and believes a deal with Cuba is possible, he has still not made one himself, allegedly depriving himself of millions of dollars and making a moral stand for a marginalized Latino group no other candidate has the financial capital to make.


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