The death of the iconic Cuban leader Fidel Castro caused mixed reactions among the American politicians and put additional pressure on the president-elect Donald Trump to act upon his Cuba promises.
Donald Trump's election campaign was full of bold promises that have shaken up the world: building a wall with Mexico, quitting NAFTA, prosecuting Hillary Clinton or completely rejecting Obamacare and many others. Cuba, the country whose relationships with the U.S. have been problematic to say the least, also made its way to the controversial policy list of Trump.
Trump, together with the Vice President-elect Mike Pence, campaigned aggressively against softening the relationships between the U.S. and Cuba during his events in Florida, the American state only 150 kilometres away from Cuba.
“All of the concessions Barack Obama has granted the Castro regime were done through executive order, which means the next president can reverse them, and that I will do unless the Castro regime meets our demands,” Trump said during a Florida campaign event in September, as reported by the MarketWatch.
On Saturday, when the news of Fidel Castro's death spread around the world, Trump's reaction to the death of Cuban leader was characteristically blunt:
"Today, the world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades. Fidel Castro's legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights. While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve," said the president-elect, reports ABC News.
With that said, the response of the President Barack Obama to the news looks sharply different from that of Trump:
"At this time of Fidel Castro's passing, we extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people. We know that this moment fills Cubans — in Cuba and in the United States — with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation," Obama said.
Barack Obama was the only American President that used his executive actions to soften the relationships between the long-conflicting countries. This March, the president visited Cuba himself, becoming the first president to visit the island country since Calvin Coolidge in 1928, adds Fox News. The gesture was regarded as a step forward in the difficult diplomatic situation that was followed by significant changes to the sanctions against Cuba. Obama cancelled the strict ban that prevents ships to dock in American ports for 180 days after visiting Cuba as well as organized initiatives allowing American doctors to work together with Cuban researchers and allowed American citizens to visit Cuba as part of cultural exchange programs. In 2015, over 700,000 American travelled to Cuba, said the Wall Street Journal.
Next to that, Obama's presidency paved the way for business cooperations between the American companies and Cuba. MarketWatch said that such transport companies as Southwest Airlines (NYSE: Southwest Airlines Company [LUV]), JetBlue Airways (NASDAQ: JBLU), American Airlines (NASDAQ: AAL) and United Continental Holdings (NYSE: UAL) along with hotel chains like Marriott (NASDAQ: Marriott International [MAR]) and its newly acquired Starwood received licenses for doing business in Cuba from the government. And it would be tough for Trump to seize these licenses as the companies currently operating in Cuba got their approval "in good faith". Considering that Trump is an experienced businessman and was possibly involved in business with Cuba himself, it is not clear whether he would go as far as completely shut down business opportunities for American companies in Cuba.
Another business direction President Obama explored while partnering with Cuba is farming, the industry that the Republican party is fiercely supporting. The Wall Street Journal cites Kevin Papp, the leader of Minnesota Farm Bureau, saying that he voted for Trump hoping that his administration will not sacrifice the farmers' trade connection with Cuba to prove a political point.
“Every other country in the world has diplomatic and trade relations with Cuba, and what we don’t want to do is lose that market share to the European Union, Brazil, Argentina,” Paap told the Wall Street Journal.
In the last weeks of Obama's administration, the White House has been working to create new business opportunities between the U.S. and Cuba and further strengthen the trade ties. New announcements regarding that should be expected in the next few weeks, add the experts. Yet, Castro's death might alter the course of these negotiations because of Trump's negative statements about the deceased leader and Cuba's current government.
Considering that Cuban government will still be lead by Fidel Castro's brother Raúl, the demands of the president-elect are likely to worsen the conflict between the countries and undo Obama's progress. However, knowing that Trump is just as good at making bold political statement as in backing away from them, the market experts are mostly staying away from making any predictions for the future as it is unclear whether the president-elect will stick to his Cuban promises. For now, he does not give us that many clues.
Fidel Castro is dead!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 26, 2016