Amid his first foreign trip as President of the United States, Donald Trump released a statement Saturday congratulating the Cuban-American community on the 115th anniversary of their independence from the Spanish empire, condemning the Castro regime for its “cruel despotism” and “unjust persecution” of political dissidents.
“On Cuban Independence Day, I extend my warmest wishes to the Cuban American community and the people of Cuba as our whole Nation joins you in celebrating the anniversary of Cuban Independence,” the statement, released by the White House, read.
Citing the Cuban founding father José Martí – who himself lived as a Cuban exile in New York, where Central Park now boasts a large statue of Martí on horseback – President Trump asserted Martí’s dream of “an economically competitive and politically autonomous nation.”
Martí, he stated, “reminds us that cruel despotism cannot extinguish the flame of freedom in the hearts of Cubans and that unjust persecution cannot tamper Cubans’ dreams for their children to live free from oppression.” He added, “The Cuban people deserve a government that peacefully upholds democratic values, economic liberties, religious freedoms, and human rights, and my Administration is committed to achieving that vision.”
Trump concludes thanking Cuban-Americans for their “outstanding contributions to our country,” particularly those who have served in the U.S. military.
Cuban-Americans have been among Trump’s most consistent supporters. Cuban-American U.S. citizens of all races, taken as an ethnic group, were more likely than “white Americans” to vote for Trump than rival Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. Trump also received the first ever endorsement of the Bay of Pigs Veterans’ Association, to which he said he was “humbled” and used his speech to commend the Ladies in White, a peaceful anti-communist resistance movement which suffers weekly violence at the hands of the Castro regime.
Trump repeatedly asserted his opposition to President Barack Obama’s decision to “normalize” relations with dictator Raúl Castro by re-establishing diplomatic relations and granting multiple business concessions to the communist government. In a September 2016 speech, candidate Trump told an audience in Florida that he would reverse all Obama-era executive orders that benefitted the Castro regime, a promise he has not yet moved towards fulfilling.
The Trump administration has, however, moved to sanction a number of high-ranking officials in the Venezuelan government, which has sustained the Cuban economy for years with free oil. Both the Cuban and Venezuelan governments have ties to prominent terrorist groups, including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and Hezbollah.
President Trump is currently on his first foreign trip to Saudi Arabia, where he has met with multiple high-ranking officials to discuss eradicating terrorist groups from the region. High on the list of concerns for both Saudi Arabia and the United States is the growing influence of Iran and its Shiite terrorist proxy Hezbollah in the region.