WASHINGTON — The Cuban government is signaling it is willing to enter into detailed negotiations with the Trump administration as the White House prepares to announce an expected rollback of former President Barack Obama’s normalization of relations with the island.
Cuban President Raul Castro is open to a brokering a new agreement with President Donald Trump, a high-level Cuban government official told CNN.
“We know they have a different view of the world. We understand that,” the Cuban official said of Havana’s posture toward new negotiations.
In a tweet posted last November in the weeks following the US presidential election, Trump warned he would scrap the Obama administration’s diplomatic breakthrough with Cuba unless the Castro government showed a willingness to reach a new agreement.
“If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the US as a whole, I will terminate deal,” Trump said in a tweet.
A separate Cuban government official pointed to comments made by Raul Castro in January.
“I wish to express Cuba’s willingness to continue negotiating pending bilateral issues with the United States, on the basis of equality, reciprocity and respect for the sovereignty and independence of our country, and to continue the respectful dialogue and cooperation on issues of common interest with the new government of President Donald Trump,” Castro said in a speech delivered less than one week after Trump was sworn into office.
Nearly five months later, the Cuban government has yet to hear what would constitute a “better deal” for Trump, the Cuban official said.
Havana, however, does not expect the Trump administration to completely reverse the Obama administration policy and shutter the US Embassy in the Cuban capital.
That would be the “nuclear option,” the Cuban official said.
The official raised concerns about news reports indicating the Trump administration would clamp down on travel to the island for Americans, a measure that would inflict more economic pain on cash-strapped Cubans who are benefiting from increased US tourism to Cuba.
Trump is expected to announce his new policy toward Cuba on Friday in Miami in the heart of the anti-Castro Cuban American community.
Such a move, the Cuban official cautioned, could destabilize improved US-Cuban relations.
Either the US and Cuba will continue to normalize relations or not, the official added.
“You cannot be half-pregnant,” the official said.
Another possible route for the Trump administration could be a return to restrictions on American purchases of Cuban cigars and rum that existed before the Obama administration.
That appears to be less of a concern to Cuba which would continue to sell those popular items all over the world.
“We will sell them to somebody else,” the official said.
Havana is hopeful Trump will listen to pro-Cuban trade voices within his administration, such as Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
As governor of Georgia in 2010, Perdue traveled to the island to promote agricultural commerce with Cuba.
But the Cuban official who spoke to CNN said Havana is concerned Trump is instead listening to Cuban-American hawks in Washington, such as Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida. Rubio has pressed Trump to roll back Obama’s Cuba policies. Last week, Rubio was one of a handful of GOP lawmakers invited to the White House for dinner with the President.
Asked to comment on Cuba’s willingness to negotiate, Trump administration officials did not respond.