“Republicans, members of the business community, and even a large portion of Cuban-Americans are in favor of normalized relations with Cuba,” IPS expert on U.S.-Cuba relations Netfa Freeman told Rising Up with Sonali, so why is Donald Trump seeking to rollback Obama era Cuba policies?

The American business community doesn’t care that Cuba has a Communist system, Freeman explained, “For them, it’s better to do business with a communist country, with a socialist country, than to not do business at all.”

“That’s one of the reasons he couldn’t do a complete about-face. He’s actually having to deal with the unpopularity of it,” Freeman said.

Freeman also notes a double standard when it comes to the U.S.’ strong economic ties with other Communist countries like China and Vietnam.

So if there isn’t a true ideological divide, what’s compelling the need for a new Cuba policy?

Trump cited human rights abuses and political prisoners.

Though we can’t ignore accusations that Cuba has political prisoners, it’s important to note that many of those who were locked up as political mercenaries for the U.S. are not locked up anymore. “They’ve released a lot of people on humanitarian grounds,” Freeman said, “but in the U.S. you don’t have that. We would be remiss if we did not note the many political prisoners in the U.S., most targets of the FBI’s COINTELPRO, who’ve been in prison for decades. And are still in prison.”

When it comes to Cuba, Freeman said what’s really happening is that the U.S. is threatened by “an island that’s only 90 miles from the U.S. that’s been able to withstand all matters of things and really uphold an example of a different society.”

Cuba is open to doing business with the U.S., Freeman said, but on its own terms.

Cuba’s alternate system includes its protectionist economic system, which, Freeman points out, is non-negotiable. “They’re not going to subject themselves to free trade agreements or structural adjustment agreements from the IMF or the World Bank. They want to ensure their citizens are treated fairly when it comes to wages and tariffs.”

This is a hard-line stance more politically poignant in a time where the future of multinational trade agreements are in question.

Even so, “There’s nothing that an adviser to Trump and his administration could do to Cuba to get it to change its mind that hasn’t already been done,” Freeman said.

Watch the full interview on Rising Up with Sonali.

Netfa Freeman is a Cuba policy analyst and the events coordinator for the Institute for Policy Studies.

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