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Trump signs up vocal Cuba critic Mauricio Claver-Carone

Inclusion of lobbyist in Treasury team signals reversal of Obama’s rapprochement with Havana

Lobbyists in favor of maintaining the United States’ long-standing trade and investment embargo on Cuba have scored a major victory with the inclusion in Donald Trump’s transition team of Mauricio Claver-Carone, a key figure in the fight against any thaw in relations between Washington and Havana.

Mauricio Claver-Carone has joined the Trump transition team.
Mauricio Claver-Carone has joined the Trump transition team.

Claver-Carone was named by Trump to the transition team for the US Department of the Treasury, where he was an attorney-adviser until November of 2003.

One of the harshest critics of President Barack Obama’s efforts since December of 2014 to improve relations with Cuba, Claver-Carone’s appointment to the Trump team signals a reversal of some of those changes.

He is executive director of the US-Cuba Democracy Political Action Committee (USCD PAC), as well as Cuba Democracy Advocates, which describes itself as “a non-partisan organization dedicated to the promotion of a transition in Cuba toward human rights, democracy and the rule of law.”

The US Treasury oversees the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), used by the US government to administer and enforce economic and trade sanctions based on US foreign policy.

Trump said during the campaign that he would have negotiated a better deal with Cuba than Obama. Critics of Obama’s changes have complained that Cuba was not required to improve its human-rights record or further open its economy.

Claver-Carone has also accused Cuba of working with Russian military intelligence

Claver-Carone has been especially critical of the Obama administration’s approval of several US companies to do business with companies owned by the Cuban government and its military. He has also attacked the lack of compensation for properties confiscated from US citizens in the 1960s.

“Obama’s new route has made a bad situation worse in Cuba,” wrote Claver-Carone in The Miami Herald last week, adding: “The Obama administration has pivoted to support the Castro regime, rather than the Cuban people and their desire for economic and political reform.”

Tourists outside the Revolution Museum in Havana.
Tourists outside the Revolution Museum in Havana. AP

US policy on the island “has gone from what it initially portrayed as a noble purpose to pure sycophancy in pursuit of historic firsts,” he wrote.

Born in Miami in 1975 and raised in Madrid, Claver-Carone is one of the loudest and harshest critics of the Castro regime in Cuba. He runs the Capitol Hill Cubans website, is a frequent guest on radio and television talk shows, and mixes at the highest levels in Washington.

A lawyer, he has taught law at the George Washington and Catholic Universities. He testified before a Congressional committee in March about Obama’s Cuba policies.

Trump says he would have negotiated a better deal with Cuba than Obama

In September, he was invited by the House of Representatives Agriculture Committee to outline his vision of Obama’s planned agriculture expansion. Claver-Carone argued that giving US companies financial assistance to set up business in Cuba would be “financing the regime’s monopoly.” He said that if money started to flow into Cuba’s agriculture sector, the Cuban armed forces would immediately take control of it and its profits.

He has also accused Cuba of working with Russian military intelligence. Quite how that will go down with his new boss, who has said he wants to improve relations with Moscow, is unclear.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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