HAVANA, March 7th — Raul Castro is not the only Cuban who is blasting President Trump’s foreign policy.
Many residents of the Caribbean nation, which is in the midst of a rapid transformation as a direct result of former PresidentBarack Obama restoring diplomatic ties and easing travel restrictions between the countries, criticized Trump and praised his predecessor for bringing Americans to their shores.
Castro, the Cuban president, called Trump’s foreign policy, including his plans to build a Mexican border wall, “irrational” and “egotistical” in a speech in Venezuela that was broadcast on Cuban state-run television on Sunday night.
Those words could draw a sharp rebuke from Trump, an admitted counterpuncher who’s currently reviewing U.S.-Cuban policy, but who was strongly critical of Obama’s Cuban moves. Trump has aligned himself with Florida Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who wants to reverse Obama’s actions.
That’s not a popular stance with Cubans, who are pleased with the country’s fast-moving progress. Though American tourism is still technically prohibited, most travelers can fit into one of 12 categories to qualify for a general purpose visa. New hotels dot the main thoroughfares in Havana, and Airbnb rentals get a steady stream of business in outlying beach communities like Boca Ciega.
Still, the country displays its hardships visibly. New restaurants are often bookended by crumbling structures. And while the internet is newly available, it’s expensive and still relatively scarce. People can be seen into the late hours huddled around Wi-Fi hot spots, their faces illuminated by the their cellphones as they vie for relatively weak bandwidth.
“One way to change (Cuba) is to get more Americans to visit,” and to lift the trade embargo, said U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, a Salem Democrat who traveled to the country last month.
Carlos Arias, a taxi driver in Havana, agrees.
“In the last 18 months, I’ve seen business go up, maybe 80 percent,” he said. “What Obama did changed everything. Everybody loves it.”
Asked if he feared that Trump would reverse U.S.-Cuban policies, Arias said: “No. He wouldn’t dare. He’s a businessman.”
While Rubio and other foes of Obama’s Cuban policies say they won’t support a Castro communist regime that harms its citizens, other lawmakers said isolating the nation only hurts them more. Plus, they say, Cubans have had a taste of what normal relations with the U.S. feels like, and it would be almost impossible to reverse that now.
“There’s lots of opportunity, and I think engagement is always better than isolationism,” said U.S. Rep. James McGovern, a Worcester Democrat who has co-sponsored a number of bills to ease Cuban relations, including one to lift the remaining travel restrictions.
“And so I don’t know what Trump is going to do. He has said some things that would have you believe he will turn back the clock. But even if he does, I don’t think they can put the genie back into the bottle.”