Tillerson Signals Tough Trump Administration Stance on Cuba

June 14, 2017 Updated: June 14, 2017

WASHINGTON—U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on June 13 said Cuba “must begin to address human rights challenges” if it wants Washington to preserve a move toward more normal relations started under former President Barack Obama.

Tillerson, speaking to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said opening to the island under communist-rule has led to an increase in U.S. visitors and U.S. business ties to the country.

However, Tillerson added, “We think we have achieved very little in terms of changing the behavior of the regime in Cuba and its treatment of people, and it has little incentive today to change that.”

Reuters has reported that Trump was expected to visit Miami as early as June 16 to announce a new Cuba policy that could tighten rules on trade and travel, rolling back parts of his Democratic predecessor’s opening to the island.

Many of Trump’s fellow Republicans, and some Democrats, objected to Obama’s policy shift, saying America’s former Cold War foe has not done enough to allow any easing of the 50-year-long U.S. embargo on trade and travel.

Tillerson said there is a “dark side” to relations with Cuba, noting that the communist regime in Havana continues to jail political opponents and harass dissidents.

“We are supportive of the continued economic development, as long as it is done in full compliance with our existing statutes to not provide financial support to the regime,” Tillerson said. “That’s the focus of our current policy review.”