HAVANA, July 20th (Sputnik) The process of normalizing relations with Havana will likely continue under Donald Trump despite the president’s changes to the Cuba policy, former US Foreign Service Officer Edward Stafford told Sputnik on Thursday.
When asked whether the new US policy regarding Cuba may hinder or stop the normalization process, Stafford stated, “Unlikely.”
“US-based Anti-Castro groups may push for sanctions targeting members of the regime, but an end to relations is unlikely,” Stafford said.
The former diplomat expects Washington and Havana to have “formal, correct diplomatic relations” over the next few years, including expanding commercial ties in areas of benefit to the US businesses, as well as continued reluctance by the Trump administration to unilaterally relax embargo details.
“Trump administration will expect something in exchange for relaxing restrictions,” he added.
Thursday marks the second anniversary of the official restoration of diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana after more than 50 years of severed ties. The thaw came as a result of then President Barack Obama’s decision in December 2014 to pursue a path toward normalizing ties with the island-nation.
In June, however, US President Donald Trump announced his administration would roll back Obama’s efforts to re-establish ties with Cuba. Trump said there would be new business and travel restrictions imposed on Havana, and Washington will retain the existing embargo.
“Restoring formal diplomatic relations was wise. Now the Trump administration must use that new situation for the mutual benefit of US and Cuban citizens without unilaterally relaxing sanctions against the members of the oppressive Cuban regime,” Stafford noted, adding that Washington should take “careful, considered steps on relaxing economic restrictions in exchange for an improved situation for Cuban people.”
The former official also said that the Administration should have a severe response, such as expulsion of diplomats, “if Cuban embassy uses its facility and staff in Washington, DC to harass or intimidate Cuban emigres to the United States.”
Last week, Cuban President Raul Castro criticized the new US policy, which excludes the possibility of continuing a bilateral dialogue or the implementation of the previously signed agreements between the two countries, but noted that Cuba nevertheless wishes to engage in dialogue with the United States.
Cuban officials warned in June that a reversal of Washington’s policy toward Havana would fail. Moreover, Cuba has hit back by accusing the United States of a huge number of murders and misconduct by its police as well as of illegal detention and torture of prisoners in the US detention center at Guantanamo Bay.
On July 20, 2015 the United States and Cuba reestablished full diplomatic relations by reopening embassies in their respective capitals after 54 years of hostility.