Cuba rejects new US policy, saying pressure will not work
Cuba's foreign minister rejected United States (US) President Donald Trump's new policy towards the island, saying on Monday that "we will never negotiate under pressure or under threat" and refusing to return US fugitives who have received asylum in Cuba.
In a hard-edged response to the policy announced last Friday, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said from Vienna that Trump's restrictions on transactions with the Cuban military would not achieve their objective of weakening the government. He said they would instead create unity behind the communist leadership.
He described fugitives such as Joanne Chesimard, a black militant convicted in 1977 of the murder of a New Jersey state trooper, as political refugees who had received asylum from the Cuban government and would not be returned because the US has no "legal or moral basis" to demand their return.
Surrounded by Cuban-American exiles and Cuban dissidents, Trump announced from a theatre in Miami that the US would impose new limits on US travellers to the island and ban any payments to the military-linked conglomerate that controls much of the island's tourism industry. Trump also declared that, "the harbouring of criminals and fugitives will end. You have no choice. It will end."
He said the US would consider lifting those and other restrictions only after Cuba returned fugitives and made a series of other internal changes including freeing political prisoners, allowing freedom of assembly and holding free elections.
CONCRETE STEPS NEEDED
"When Cuba is ready to take concrete steps to these ends, we will be ready, willing, and able to come to the table to negotiate that much better deal for Cubans, for Americans," Trump said.
Rodriguez's response Monday was a clear signal that there could be very little, if any, high-level US-Cuba negotiation during Trump's time in office. Already, while working-level meeting on topics such as search-and-rescue have taken place since Trump took office, no meetings between top diplomats have occurred. It's a sharp contrast to Obama's last year, during which top US and Cuban diplomats met regularly to discuss topics including law-enforcement co-operation and compensation for Americans whose property was taken during the 1959 Cuban revolution.
"Cuba will not make concessions that harm its sovereignty," Rodriguez said. "We have never done in the history of the revolution."