The officials argued that the new policy will fulfill a campaign promise and reverse Obama-era policies that the Trump administration argues have appeased and “enriched” the Cuban military regime.
The main focus of the policy will attempt to shift money away from the military and intelligence services “that contribute to oppression on the island,” one official said. For example, payments to hotels owned by the military will be prohibited.
In a Thursday briefing call, reporters pressed officials on why the Trump administration is emphasizing Cuba’s human rights issues when the White House has previously demonstrated interest in working with other problematic regimes.
A senior White House official responded that the president’s September 2016 comments on the campaign trail still stand. In Miami, then-candidate Trump called for a reversal of Obama’s normalization of Cuba policy, saying he would demand religious and political freedom for the Cuban people as well as the release of political prisoners.
But the White House’s crackdown on Cuba’s human rights record is puzzling, considering Trump has previously praised other countries and leaders with similarly checkered histories, such as Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte. Trump has previously praised Duterte for his drug crackdown, saying he has done an “unbelievable job” even though the campaign has led to the death of thousands of his own people.
The official said that the administration “will continue to take an aggressive stance” on human rights, but declined to comment on foreign policy related to other nations.