Your Trip to Havana Might Have to Wait. What Trump’s policies for Cuba will mean for human rights.

By Marselha Gonçalves Margerin, Advocacy Director for the Americas

Your trip to Havana might have to wait!

Despite criticisms, increasing travel to Cuba not only fosters tourism, it serves as a glimpse into what every day Cubans go through. Would police beating up Ladies in White on their way to church go unnoticed on social media if American tourists were coming and going from the Island with their 4G phones?

If the Trump Administration switches back to U.S. policy towards Cuba to “Cold War”-era relations, Cubans are the ones likely to lose. More travel, more communications’ access, and more dialogue with Cuba are the way forward for human rights in Cuba.

A new Trump policy on Cuba may be in the works, according to press sources. While no official policy decisions have been made public yet, President Trump is said to be considering a roll-back on several of the Obama administration’s historic changes in U.S.-Cuba relations. These changes could range from reinstating restrictions for U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba for educational or cultural purposes, and blocking transactions between certain sectors of the U.S. and Cuban economies, to once again implementing sanctions that were lifted by the Obama administration in an effort to ease the embargo after re-opening diplomatic relations between the two countries after over 50 years.

Ironically, the Trump administration cites the Cuban government’s human rights abuses as justification for policy adjustment. For decades, Amnesty International has documented human rights violations in Cuba and also has called for lifting the U.S. embargo. Amnesty International’s 2009 report emphasized how the trade and financial sanctions affect healthcare in Cuba.

Amnesty International continues to document that political activists and human rights defenders are publicly described as “anti-Cuban mercenaries,” “anti-revolutionary,” and “subversive’’ as they attempt to express their dissent or to organize. Amnesty has campaigned for an independent judiciary, and for the freedom of activists, like Dr. Eduardo Cadet, sentenced to three years in jail after criticizing Fidel Castro.

Last year’s U.S. presidential trip to Cuba finally opened the door for scrutiny and transparency so that eventually, organizations like Amnesty International, the UN, and independent regional experts could access the country for human rights monitoring. Cuba is the only country in the Americas where Amnesty International does not have permission to access. In April, for the first time in almost 10 years, the UN expert on Trafficking of Persons visited Cuba.

The Trump administration should not backpedal on engagement with Cuba and should move toward lifting the U.S embargo towards the country. Thus, once and for all, eliminating the Castro regime’s excuse of foreign threat to thwart the freedoms of its people.

Mallika Balakrishnan also contributed to this blog

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