Changing Cuban policy and liberalizing the economy on the island nation requires interaction with Americans and the flow of capital and goods that comes with trade. Ironically, conservatives often makes those claims when wanting to justify trade with regimes such as South Africa in the days of Apartheid or the military junta that rules Argentina in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Conservatives didn’t care about human rights issues in Chile under Pinochet and Rubio has proven time and again that he doesn’t seem to be bothered by Saudi Arabia’s far more offensive human rights record than Cuba.
As I wrote earlier in the week, If Rubio really cares about human rights and doesn’t care about free markets and capitalism perhaps he needs to push legislation to restrict American trade and commerce with China, Saudi Arabia, Belarus and Uzbekistan among other nations. If Rubio cares about racism/ethnic cleansing as he has previously claimed he should be pushing opposition to American support for the current government of Ukraine (whom Rubio is an advocate of because of his anti-Putin stance), Qatar and various right-wing military juntas across the globe.
But no such effort has been made by Rubio. Nor should we expect any in the future. Instead Rubio’s free market principles promptly end when the discussion is about Cuba, demonstrating the failure of Florida’s Junior Senator to divorce personal emotion from policy making.
Meanwhile, airlines that are flying half empty planes to Cuba now face greater obstacles to booking American passengers due to increased restrictions on travel that have been placed today by Trump. A source tells us that Southwest Airlines who is one of three US carriers flying to Cuban cities beyond Havana has had little trouble filling planes from Fort Lauderdale and Tampa to the Cuban capital under the current travel restrictions. But the airline has struggled to fill planes from Fort Lauderdale to two secondary points – Varadero, a tourist center and Santa Clara. Given today’s further tightening of sanctions Trump is making it even more difficult for Southwest and its competitors to fill those planes, thus impacting American businesses negatively.
American business that were working on deals with the Cuban government or other entities on the island must now halt or revisit investment thanks to the new restrictions. This almost undoubtedly will impact the future prospects for businesses based in Florida. It also makes a market that is wide open for the EU, Canada and Mexico even more restricted for American companies. Perhaps this is the sort of protectionism President Trump envisioned with his populist rhetoric – an America isolated economically which allows markets that are developing to be left wide open for Chinese, EU or Russian exploitation.
The Cuba policy changes represents a dark page turn toward right-wing hypocritical foreign and trade policy and towards a protectionism that will hurt American businesses in what is today a global marketplace.