Remarks by President Trump on the Policy of the United States Towards Cuba
Manuel Artime Theater
1:31 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, everybody. Thank you very much. Great honor. And thank you to my truly great friend, Vice President Mike Pence — he’s terrific. (Applause.) And thank you to Miami. We love Miami.
Let me start by saying that I’m glad Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and I, along with a very talented team, were able to get Otto Warmbier back with his parents. (Applause.) What’s happened to him is a truly terrible thing, but at least the ones who love him so much can now take care of him and be with him.
Also, my dear friend, Steve Scalise, took a bullet for all of us. And because of him, and the tremendous pain and suffering he’s now enduring — he’s having a hard time, far worse than anybody thought — our country will perhaps become closer, more unified. So important.
So we all owe Steve a big, big thank you. And let’s keep the Warmbier family, and the Scalise family, and all of the victims of the congressional shooting, in our hearts and prayers. And it was quite a day and our police officers were incredible, weren’t they? They did a great job. (Applause.)
And let us all pray for a future of peace, unity and safety for all of our people. (Applause.) Thank you. And for Cuba.
I am so thrilled to be back here with all of my friends in Little Havana. (Applause.) I love it. I love this city.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you?
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you.
This is an amazing community, the Cuban-American community — so much love. I saw that immediately.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you!
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, darling. Oh do I love you, too. (Applause.)
What you have built here — a vibrant culture, a thriving neighborhood, the spirit of adventure — is a testament to what a free Cuba could be. And with God’s help, a free Cuba is what we will soon achieve. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: USA! USA! USA!
THE PRESIDENT: And I don’t even mind that it is 110 degrees up here. (Laughter.) This room is packed. You know, it wasn’t designed for this. I would like to thank the fire department. (Laughter.)
We are delighted to be joined by so many friends and leaders of our great community. I want to express our deep gratitude to a man who has really become a friend of mine — and I want to tell you, he is one tough competitor — Senator Marco Rubio. (Applause.) Great guy. (Applause.) He is tough, man. He is tough and he’s good, and he loves you. He loves you.
And I listened to another friend of mine, Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart — (applause) — and I’ll tell you, I loved what he said, and I appreciate it. Mario, I appreciated what you said so much. In fact I was looking for Mario. I wanted to find him — they said he was onstage. I almost dragged him off the stage to thank him, but now I’m thanking you anyway. Thank you, Mario. That was great. Really appreciate it.
And I also want to thank my good friend, and just a man who was of tremendous support in the state of Florida, for being with us — Governor Rick Scott. (Applause.) Great job. He’s doing a great job. I hope he runs for the Senate. I know I’m not supposed to say that. I hope he runs for the Senate. Rick, are you running? (Applause.) I don’t know. Marco, let’s go, come on. We got to get him to — I hope he runs for the Senate.
We are deeply honored to be joined by amazing Veterans of the Bay of Pigs. (Applause.) These are great people, amazing people. (Applause.)
I have wonderful memories from our visit during the campaign. That was some visit. That was right before the election. I guess it worked, right? Boy, Florida, as a whole, and this community supported us by tremendous margins. We appreciate it.
But including one of the big honors, and that was the honor of getting the Bay of Pigs award just before the election, and it’s great to be gathered in a place named for a true hero of the Cuban people. And you know what that means. (Applause.)
I was also looking forward to welcoming today two people who are not present — José Daniel Ferrer and Berta Soler — (applause) — were both prevented from leaving Cuba for this event. So we acknowledge them. They’re great friends — great help. And although they could not be with us, we are with them 100 percent. (Applause.) We are with them. Right?
Finally, I want to recognize everyone in the audience who has their own painful but important story to tell about the true and brutal nature of the Castro regime. Brutal. We thank the dissidents, the exiles, and the children of Operation Peter Pan — you know what that means — (applause) — and all who gather in the cafes, churches, and the streets in this incredible area and city to speak the truth and to stand for justice. (Applause.)
And we want to thank you all for being a voice for the voiceless. There are people –- it’s voiceless, but you are making up the difference, and we all want to thank you. This group is amazing. Just an incredible –- you are an incredible group of talented, passionate people. Thank you. Incredible group of people.
Many of you witnessed terrible crimes committed in service of a depraved ideology. You saw the dreams of generations held by captive, and just, literally, you look at what happened and what communism has done. You knew faces that disappeared, innocents locked in prisons, and believers persecuted for preaching the word of God. You watched the Women in White bruised, bloodied, and captured on their way from Mass. You have heard the chilling cries of loved ones, or the cracks of firing squads piercing through the ocean breeze. Not a good sound.
Among the courageous Cuban dissidents with us onstage here today are Cary Roque, who was imprisoned by the Castro regime 15 years ago. (Applause.) She looks awfully good.
MS. ROQUE: Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Mr. Vice President. Thank you, Marco Rubio, Mario Diaz-Balart. Thank you to all the men and the Cubans who fight no matter what — for the Cuban liberty. Mr. President, on behalf of the Cuban people, the people inside my eyes, my homeland, thank you. Thank you, and we appreciate your love. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Wow. That’s pretty good. She didn’t know she was going to do that either, I will tell you. Thank you very much.
Antunez, imprisoned for 17 years. Where is he? (Applause.) I love that name. Antunez — I love that name –and Angel De Fana, imprisoned for over 20 years. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you. Very brave people.
The exiles and dissidents here today have witnessed communism destroy a nation, just as communism has destroyed every single nation where it has ever been tried. (Applause.) But we will not be silent in the face of communist oppression any longer. You have seen the truth, you have spoken the truth, and the truth has now called us — this group — called us to action. Thank you.
Last year, I promised to be a voice against repression in our region — remember, tremendous oppression — and a voice for the freedom of the Cuban people. You heard that pledge. You exercised the right you have to vote. You went out and you voted. And here I am like I promised — like I promised. (Applause.)
I promised you — I keep my promises. Sometimes in politics, they take a little bit longer, but we get there. We get there. Don’t we get there? You better believe it, Mike. We get there. (Laughter.) Thank you. Thank you. No, we keep our promise.
And now that I am your President, America will expose the crimes of the Castro regime and stand with the Cuban people in their struggle for freedom. Because we know it is best for America to have freedom in our hemisphere, whether in Cuba or Venezuela, and to have a future where the people of each country can live out their own dreams. (Applause.)
For nearly six decades, the Cuban people have suffered under communist domination. To this day, Cuba is ruled by the same people who killed tens of thousands of their own citizens, who sought to spread their repressive and failed ideology throughout our hemisphere, and who once tried to host enemy nuclear weapons 90 miles from our shores.
The Castro regime has shipped arms to North Korea and fueled chaos in Venezuela. While imprisoning innocents, it has harbored cop killers, hijackers, and terrorists. It has supported human trafficking, forced labor, and exploitation all around the globe. This is the simple truth of the Castro regime. (Applause.)
My administration will not hide from it, excuse it, or glamorize it. And we will never, ever be blind to it. We know what’s going on and we remember what happened. (Applause.)
On my recent trip overseas, I said the United States is adopting a principled realism, rooted in our values, shared interests, and common sense. I also said countries should take greater responsibility for creating stability in their own regions. It’s hard to think of a policy that makes less sense than the prior administration’s terrible and misguided deal with the Castro regime. (Applause.) Well, you have to say, the Iran deal was pretty bad also. Let’s not forget that beauty.
They made a deal with a government that spreads violence and instability in the region and nothing they got — think of it — nothing they got — they fought for everything and we just didn’t fight hard enough. But now those days are over. Now we hold the cards. We now hold the cards. (Applause.)
The previous administration’s easing of restrictions on travel and trade does not help the Cuban people — they only enrich the Cuban regime. (Applause.) The profits from investment and tourism flow directly to the military. The regime takes the money and owns the industry. The outcome of the last administration’s executive action has been only more repression and a move to crush the peaceful, democratic movement.
Therefore, effective immediately, I am canceling the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Trump! Trump! Trump!
THE PRESIDENT: I am announcing today a new policy, just as I promised during the campaign, and I will be signing that contract right at that table in just a moment. (Applause.)
Our policy will seek a much better deal for the Cuban people and for the United States of America. We do not want U.S. dollars to prop up a military monopoly that exploits and abuses the citizens of Cuba.
Our new policy begins with strictly enforcing U.S. law. (Applause.) We will not lift sanctions on the Cuban regime until all political prisoners are freed, freedoms of assembly and expression are respected, all political parties are legalized, and free and internationally supervised elections are scheduled. Elections. (Applause.)
We will very strongly restrict American dollars flowing to the military, security and intelligence services that are the core of Castro regime. They will be restricted. We will enforce the ban on tourism. We will enforce the embargo. We will take concrete steps to ensure that investments flow directly to the people, so they can open private businesses and begin to build their country’s great, great future — a country of great potential. (Applause.)
My action today bypasses the military and the government, to help the Cuban people themselves form businesses and pursue much better lives. We will keep in place the safeguards to prevent Cubans from risking their lives to unlawful travel to the United States. They are in such danger the way they have to come to this country, and we are going to be safeguarding those people. We have to. We have no choice. We have to. (Applause.)
And we will work for the day when a new generation of leaders brings this long reign of suffering to an end. And I do believe that end is in the very near future. (Applause.)
We challenge Cuba to come to the table with a new agreement that is in the best interests of both their people and our people and also of Cuban Americans.
To the Cuban government, I say: Put an end to the abuse of dissidents. Release the political prisoners. Stop jailing innocent people. Open yourselves to political and economic freedoms. Return the fugitives from American justice — including the return of the cop-killer Joanne Chesimard. (Applause.)
And finally, hand over the Cuban military criminals who shot down and killed four brave members of Brothers to the Rescue who were in unarmed, small, slow civilian planes. (Applause.)
Those victims included Mario de la Pena, Jr., and Carlos Costa. We are honored to be joined by Mario’s parents, Miriam and Mario, and Carlos’s sister, Mirta. Where are you? (Applause.) Those are great, great parents who love their children so much. What they’ve done is just an incredible, incredible thing — what they represent — they did not die in vain — what they represent to everybody, and especially to the Cuban people. So your children did not die in vain, believe me. (Applause.)
So to the Castro regime, I repeat: The harboring of criminals and fugitives will end. You have no choice. It will end. (Applause.)
Any changes to the relationship between the United States and Cuba will depend on real progress toward these and the other goals, many of which I’ve described. When Cuba is ready to take concrete steps to these ends, we will be ready, willing, and able to come to the table to negotiate that much better deal for Cubans, for Americans. Much better deal and a deal that’s fair. A deal that’s fair and a deal that makes sense.
Our embassy remains open in the hope that our countries can forge a much stronger and better path. America believes that free, independent, and sovereign nations are the best vehicle for human happiness, for health, for education, for safety, for everything. We all accept that all nations have the right to chart their own paths — and I’m certainly a very big believer in that — so we will respect Cuban sovereignty. But we will never turn our backs on the Cuban people. That will not happen. (Applause.)
Over the years, a special sympathy has grown between this land of the free, and the beautiful people of that island, so close to our shores and so deeply woven into the history of our region. America has rejected the Cuban people’s oppressors. They are rejected. Officially today, they are rejected. (Applause.) And to those people, America has become a source of strength, and our flag a symbol of hope.
I know that is exactly what America is to you and what it represents to you. It represents the same to me. It represents the same to all of us. And that is what it was to a little boy, Luis Haza. You ever hear of Luis? He became very famous, great talent — just eight years old when Fidel Castro seized power. At the time, Luis’s father was the police chief in Santiago de Cuba. You know Santiago? Yeah? Oh, they know Santiago. Just days after Fidel took control, his father was one of 71 Cubans executed by firing squad near San Juan Hill at the hands of the Castro regime.
Luis buried his grief in his great love of music. He began playing the violin so brilliantly and so beautifully. Soon the regime saw his incredible gift and wanted to use him for propaganda purposes. When he was 12, they organized a national television special and demanded he play a solo for Raul Castro — who by the way is leaving now. I wonder why.
They sent an official to fetch Luis from his home. But Luis refused to go. And a few days later, Castro’s soldiers barged into his orchestra practice area, guns blazing. They told him to play for them. Terrified, Luis began to play. And the entire room was stunned by what they heard. Ringing out from the trembling boy’s violin was a tune they all recognized. This young Cuban boy was playing “The Star Spangled Banner.” (Applause.) Luis played the American National Anthem all the way through, and when he finished, the room was dead silent.
When we say that America stands as a symbol to the world — a symbol of freedom, and a symbol of hope — that is what Luis meant, and that is what Luis displayed that day. It was a big day. It was a great day. And that is what we will all remain. That was a very important moment, just like this is now, for Cuba. A very important moment. (Applause.) America will always stand for liberty, and America will always pray and cheer for the freedom of the Cuban people.
Now, that little boy, whose story I just told you, the one who played that violin so beautifully so many years ago, is here with us today in our very, very packed and extremely warm auditorium. (Laughter.) Of course, he is no longer a little boy, but a world-renowned violinist and conductor — one of the greats. And today he will once again play his violin and fill the hearts of all who love and cherish Cuba, the United States, and freedom. (Applause.)
I would like to now invite Luis to the stage.
(Luis Haza plays The Star-Spangled Banner on the violin.)
AUDIENCE: USA! USA! USA! (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Luis. I just said, so where were you more nervous? Today or then? He said, honestly, I think today. That’s pretty — (laughter.) Thank you, Luis, that was beautiful.
So I want to thank Miami. I want to thank Little Havana. Havana, we love. Do we love it? Would you move anywhere else? You wouldn’t move to Palm Beach, would you? No. No way. Little Havana.
And I want to thank all of our great friends here today. You’ve been amazing, loyal, beautiful people. And thank you. Don’t remind me. Actually, I was telling Mike, so it was two days — on my birthday — until a big day, which turned out to be tomorrow — the 16th. That was the day I came down with Melania on the escalator at Trump Tower. That’s tomorrow. (Applause.) So it’s exactly tomorrow — two years since we announced. And it worked out okay. Worked out okay. (Applause.) It’s a great honor. Believe me, it’s a great honor. Right?
AUDIENCE: (Sings Happy Birthday.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you very much.
I just want to end by saying may God bless everyone searching for freedom. May God bless Cuba. May God bless the United States of America. And God bless you all. Thank you. Now I’m going to sign. Thank you.
(The President participates in a signing.)
So this says, “strengthening the policy of the United States toward Cuba.” And I can add, “strengthening a lot.” (Laughter.) So this is very important, and you watch what’s going to happen. Going to be a great day for Cuba.
Thank you. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
2:09 P.M. EDT