HAVANA — A top Cuban diplomat on Wednesday rejected Donald Trump’s threat to undo detente with Cuba unless the single-party government meets the Republican presidential candidate’s demands.
Trump said in Miami this month that he would reverse President Barack Obama’s executive orders loosening the U.S. trade embargo on the island unless Cuba meets demands including “religious and political freedom for the Cuban people and the freeing of political prisoners.”
Gustavo Machin, Cuba’s deputy director of U.S. affairs, said Cuba would never be pressured into making internal reforms, and he said whoever is the next U.S. president should respect Cuba’s right to self-determination.
“Cuba has always made clear that Cuba’s internal matters aren’t on the negotiating table,” Machin told reporters. “They’re a function of internal decisions by Cuba and the Cuban people and we really call on the next president of the United States to stick to those principles. They’re not Cuba’s principles; they’re principles of international law.”
The U.S. and Cuba have held several rounds of talks on human rights since the restart of diplomatic relations. Neither country has said whether the talks have produced any concrete results. Talks on less-controversial issues like health and the environment have produced a series of bilateral agreements.
Turning to business matters, Machin urged Obama to issue a final round of orders loosening the trade embargo before the fifth and last major round of negotiations at the end of this year. The fourth round will take place Friday in Washington.
Machin also praised Obama’s nomination of Jeffrey DeLaurentis, the charge d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, as the first U.S. ambassador to Cuba in more than 50 years.
“It’s a decision in keeping with the commitments that both countries made and the aim of the United States and its diplomatic mission in being represented here at the highest possible level,” he said.
Laying out Cuba’s wish list for the end of the Obama administration, Machin said Cuba believed the president could permit more U.S. exports to Cuba and more Cuban sales to the United States, and allow American investments in Cuba beyond an exception for telecommunications companies carved out at the beginning of the process.
He also said Cuba remains frustrated by banks’ unwillingness to deal with Cuba, particularly in dollar transactions that were long prohibited by the U.S. embargo and related restrictions.
Michael Weissenstein on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mweissenstein