In Miami, the heart of America’s Cuban exile community, President Donald Trump sounded the death knell of predecessor Barack Obama’s “normalization” policy towards Cuba, vowing,” we will not be silent in the face of communist oppression any longer.”
Opening with a recognition of recent victims of leftist violence – U.S. citizen Otto Warmbier, recently released by Cuba ally North Korea, and Representative Steve Scalise (R-LA) – Trump called for the audience to pray for them and all the American and Cuban people. He then listed some of the Cuban dissidents present for his speech in Florida, including Jorge Luis García Pérez (Antúnez), who suffered 17 years in prison for objecting to communism, and Cary Roque, a dissident who Trump allowed to deliver a few short words.
Trump also took a moment to acknowledge two dissidents not present in Miami – José Daniel Ferrer of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) and Berta Soler of the Ladies in White – who were banned from traveling to the event by the communist regime. The president honored the “great people” who fought at Bay of Pigs, the 2506 Brigade veterans present at the event, and the “children of Operation Peter Pan.”
“We want to thank you all for being a voice for the voiceless,” Trump concluded. “The exiles and dissidents here today have witnessed communism destroy a nation, just as communism has destroyed every nation where it has ever been tried.”
Trump listed those crimes in detail. “You look at what happened and what communism has done,” he listed. “Believers persecuted for preaching the word of God, you watch the Women in White – bruised, bloodied, and captured on their way from Mass, you have heard the chilling cries of loved ones or the cracks of firing squads piercing through the ocean breeze — not a good sound.”
“This is the simple truth of the Castro regime: my administration will not hide from it, excuse it, or glamorize it, and we will never, ever be blind to it. We know what is going on and we remember what happened,” Trump promised.
“Last year, I promised to be a voice against repression. You went out and you voted, and here I am,” the president told the audience. “Now that I am president, America will expose the crimes of the Castro regime… now we hold the cards.”
Those cards, the president promised, would be used to pressure a regime that “harbors cop killers, hijackers, and terrorists,” and has “shipped arms to North Korea and fueled chaos in Venezuela.”
Trump’s new policy, signed shortly after the speech, would “enforce the ban on tourism, enforce the embargo… take concrete steps that ensure investments float directly to the people so they can open private businesses and begin to build their country’s future,” according to the president.
The new policies, Trump continued, would require Cuba to “put an end to the abuse of dissidents, release the political prisoners, stop jailing innocent people, open yourselves to political and economic freedoms, return the fugitives from American justice, including the return of the cop killer Joanne Chesimard” before America would be open to a deal with them.
In another nod to the Cuban-American community, Trump acknowledged the murder of U.S. citizens in the 1996 Brothers to the Rescue incident. With their family in attendance, he promised them, “they did not die in vain.”
“We challenge Cuba to come to the table with a new agreement that is in the best interests of both their people and our people, and also for Cuban Americans,” Trump concluded, before sitting down to sign the new policies into action.
The new policies followed a thorough White House review of President Obama’s “normalization” shift, as well as consultations with Cuban policy experts in Congress, including members of the Cuban exile community who were present at Friday’s event, like Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart (R-FL) and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL).
In anticipation of the announcement, Cuban anti-communist dissident leaders praised the changes to American policy, calling them a “positive step” for the democratization of the island. The White House invited a number of prominent Cuban dissidents to the announcement, including the head of the Ladies in White movement, Berta Soler, who was banned from leaving Cuba to attend.
President Trump made reforms to benefit the Cuban people and limit the power of the communist regime a staple of his presidential campaign, earning him the first endorsement from the Bay of Pigs Veterans’ Association in the history of that group.