WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald Trump’s threat Monday to “terminate” the U.S. detente with Cuba could trigger opposition from lawmakers and corporate leaders who favour continued engagement with Havana.
Since 2014, when President Barack Obama began to normalize relations with the island, the United States has taken numerous steps to increase commercial travel, commerce and the flow of information to Cuba. On Monday, the first regularly scheduled commercial flight in more than 50 years from the U.S. to Havana landed while passengers aboard the American Airlines jet cheered.
Following Fidel Castro’s death Friday at age 90, top aides to Trump signalled that the Cuban government must move toward enacting greater freedoms for its people and giving Americans more in return if it wants to keep the warmer U.S. ties that Obama initiated.
Trump’s aides said nothing on Cuba has been decided. But Trump tweeted Monday, “If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal.”
White House spokesman Josh Earnest suggested pressure from both U.S. corporate interests and supporters of the detente would keep Trump from dramatically changing course.
Earnest cited the new, daily commercial flights, new licenses for U.S. hotel operators and agricultural investment as examples of the sort of corporate investment that could not be undone without dealing an economic blow to both U.S. businesses and Cubans.
“It’s just not as simple as one tweet might make it seem,” Earnest said. “To cancel all of that would deal a significant economic blow to those Cuban citizens.”
Several airlines began routes to other Cuban cities earlier this year. Monday morning’s American Airlines flight was the first of the new Havana-bound service and the first of four daily flights the airline plans out of Miami International.
The travel industry is eager to capitalize on the recent detente with Cuba, which is 90 miles from Key West, Florida, and has the potential to be a top Caribbean destination.
The Miami Herald has reported Jet Blue will start twice-daily service from Orlando on Tuesday and Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday. On Thursday, Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines begin flying from Fort Lauderdale and Delta flights will take off from Miami, New York’s JFK airport and Atlanta. Southwest starts daily service from Fort Lauderdale on Dec. 12.