Republicans divided as Trump reverses some Obama Cuba policy

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The Cuban government is rejecting what it calls the "hostile rhetoric" of President Donald Trump's speech announcing a new USA policy toward the island, but says it is willing to continue "respectful dialogue" with the us on topics of mutual interest.

The Cuban government on Friday evening responded by rejecting what it called Trump's "hostile rhetoric".

Commercial flights and cruises between the US and Cuba are set to continue under an exemption, as US President Donald J. Trump yesterday hardened diplomatic stances between the countries.

Even as Trump predicted a quick end to Cuban President Raul Castro's regime, he challenged Cuba to negotiate better agreements for Americans, Cubans and those whose identities lie somewhere in between.

While Castro acknowledged that changes in Cuba were necessary, pointing to the ongoing process of modernising and developing the island's economic and socialist model, he insisted that Cuba would decide its own fate independent of foreign influence. His aides contend that Obama's easing of US restrictions amounted to "appeasement" and has done nothing to advance political freedoms in Cuba, while benefiting the Cuban government financially.

Obama had announced in December 2014 that he and Castro were restoring ties and less than a year later, the US Embassy in Havana was re-opened with the then US president making a historic visit to the Communist country in 2016.

The President said it was hard to think of a policy "that makes less sense than the prior administration's bad and misguided deal" with the "brutal" Castro government.

Trump told an audience of Cuban-Americans in Miami that he would tighten some restrictions on travel and trade with Cuba, though he left in place many of Obama's wide-ranging reforms.

It further said that "once again the U.S. government is resorting to the coercive measures of the past".

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The changes will not go into effect until regulations are drafted by the US Treasury Department and other agencies, officials said. Still, Cuba said it is willing to continue "respectful dialogue" with on topics of mutual interest. Find us on Facebook too!

Trump said Friday that any easement of restrictions on doing US business in Cuba would have to wait until political prisoners are freed and fair elections are held.

After those meetings, White House officials said Trump would not let differences over human rights impede upon his efforts to strike deals with autocrats and dictators.

"The previous administration's easing of restrictions on travel and trade does not help the Cuban people - they only enrich the Cuban regime", Trump said in his address. In his view, it prevents USA companies from conducting business with companies controlled by the Cuban military.

Saying that the aim was to fix what Trump has called a "bad deal" struck by Obama, U.S. officials said the new administration would leave the door open to improved relations if Cuba undertakes democratic reforms such as allowing free elections and releasing political prisoners. "On the other hand, we think we've achieved very little in terms of changing the behavior of the regime in Cuba and its treatment of people", he said, "and it has little incentive to change that".

The US president framed it as a move against a "cruel and brutal" regime: bypassing the state military-run business group GAESA to channel investment to the people.

He alleged that for almost six decades, the Cuban people had suffered under the Communist domination.

The Obama administration argued that decades of isolation had failed to produce changes in the Cuban regime and sought a diplomatic and economic opening between the nations.

Weissenstein reported from Havana and Lederman from Washington.

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