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American University Experts Offer Comments on Trump’s Cuba Policy


American University experts


American University experts are available to comment on President Trump’s changes to U.S. Cuba policy


In–studio, on campus, via email or via telephone


President Trump is expected to make a major policy announcement in Miami on Friday, June 16s, rolling back or amending President Barack Obama’s opening to the country. The American University experts listed below are available to comment on the President’s announcement and U.S.-Cuba relations, in general. 

Fulton Armstrong is a senior fellow at American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS). He directs the Center’s blog, AULABLOG; contributes to the Cuba Initiative and to an in-depth examination of security programs in Central America.

Prof. Armstrong said: “As President Trump considers changes to U.S. Cuba policy, he can choose to keep it focused on U.S. national interests, as President Obama did, or shift it back into the Cold War mindset for perceived political support from a small group of Miami politicians. As Cuba prepares for its post-Castro transition, it will be tough for Donald Trump to make a case for reverting to an approach that failed to reflect U.S. interests for 60 long years and will only undermine proponents of change on the island.”

Philip Brenner is a professor of international relations at American University, director of the Graduate Program in US Foreign Policy, and co-author (with Peter Eisner) of the forthcoming history of Cuba, Cuba Libre: A 500-Year Quest for Independence (Rowman and Littlefield, September 2017).

Prof. Brenner said: “US observers have tended to describe the pressure on the president as coming from two groups, hardline anti-Castro old-timers who favor closing the partial opening Obama started, and business groups allied with moderate Republicans who favor a greater opening. A third force may be Russia, which would stand to gain from new US sanctions against Cuba by strengthening its ties with the island.”

William M. LeoGrande is a professor of government in American University's School of Public Affairs who has written widely in the field of Latin American politics and U.S. foreign policy. He is a renowned expert on Cuban politics and U.S.-Cuban relations. LeoGrande is the coauthor of Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana and author of Our Own Backyard: The United States in Central America, 1977 to 1992.

Prof. LeoGrande said: “On Friday, President Trump is slated to unveil his new policy toward Cuba, reversing key elements of President Obama's policy of engagement. By restricting U.S. trade and travel, Trump's new policy will have serious negative consequences for U.S. businesses, U.S. relations with our allies, and for ordinary Cubans whose livelihoods depend on engagement between the United States and Cuba.”

Eric Hershberg, director of the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies and professor of government at American University, focuses on the comparative politics of Latin America, and on the politics of development. His current research project is analyzing the state of democracy in South America, social sector reforms in the Andean region and conflicts over accountability for human rights abuses under military regimes in the Southern Cone countries. He is also the former president of the Latin American Studies Association.

Prof. Hershberg said: “The Obama administration implemented a series of measures seeking to achieve normal diplomatic and economic relations after nearly six decades of estrangement and confrontation, and these have been met with positive if cautious responses from the Cuban government. Hundreds of American businesses, and tens of thousands of American citizens, have taken advantage of rapprochement to explore opportunities to engage with Cuba. The degree to which these opportunities are expanded, sustained, or curtailed during the months and years ahead will depend in large part on decisions that are expected to be announced soon by President Trump, as well as on the manner in which U.S. government officials interpret those decisions in practice.”