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What Does a Trump Presidency Mean for Cuban-American Relations?

"In the end, I think that Cuba will continue to open up its economy gradually, but will not relent on the political side.”

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President-elect Donald Trump has been weighing in on Castro's death via Twitter.

“Fidel Castro is dead!” he tweeted over the weekend.

And then Monday he followed up with: "If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal."

How does this bode for Cuban-American relations going forward?

The “deal” that President-elect Trump is referring to, according to Eduardo Gamarra, professor of politics and international relations at Florida International University in Miami, is the December 2014 announcement by President Barack Obama that the US would begin normalizing relations with Cuba, including the loosening of trade and travel restrictions.

In fact, this week marks the inauguration of commercial flights between the US and the Cuban capital, Havana. Other flights started in recent weeks.

“The argument [Trump is making] is that we’ve given Cuba a lot of concessions on the economic front, with no concessions on the political front,” says Gamarra.

Gamarra says the Cubans have been very clear that while they are interested in making their economy more competitive, they are not interested in making their political system more competitive.

“They do not believe in liberal representative democracy with multiple parties, they don’t believe in pluralism, they believe in a centralized political system,” says Gamarra, “and in the end, I think that Cuba will continue to open up its economy gradually, but will not relent on the political side.”

According to Gamarra, since Obama’s announcement on normalizing relations, dissent in Cuba continues to be severely repressed.

“Things have not gotten better for dissenters in Cuba, and they’re unlikely to get better. And under the Trump administration, things are likely to get worse for dissenters in Cuba,” says Gamarra. “At the same time, it’s important to note that they have opened up so much recently, and there’s such great interest from South Americans, Asians, Europeans to invest in the island that the reversal of the 'deal' would essentially penalize Americans who have invested there — and even members of the Cuban-American community who have invested there.”

One thing that Trump could do that might seriously hurt the Cuban government, says Gamarra, would be to abolish the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act, allowing Cubans to immigrate to the US and become permanent residents

Senator Marco Rubio has been one proponent for abolishing the act, says Gamarra.

“It’s very curious and almost paradoxical that members of the old Cuban elite, here in Florida, are the ones now attempting to close down that immigration valve,” says Gamarra. “Closing that loophole ... might serve more to penalize Cuba than closing the economic opening.”

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