LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Monday he hopes Donald Trump’s administration will not seek to return to the “rigid embargo” the U.S. imposed on Cuba for decades.
Hutchinson spoke to reporters at the state Capitol three days after the death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. On Monday morning, Trump said on Twitter he would end the 2014 deal that reopened Cuban-American relations unless the island nation is willing to negotiate a new deal.
“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 the deal,” Trump tweeted.
Hutchinson said Monday afternoon, “President-elect Trump has had a hard line toward Cuba, and that’s understandable, but it’s a different day and time, and I hope that we do not go back to the simple, straightforward rigid embargo that we have tried for 50-plus years.
“It is time for a change, but it is change that should not come without enhancement of freedom on the part of the Cuban government and changes that we would expect there. So we need to balance keeping the pressure on Cuba but at the same time expressing to them a willingness to re-engage as we see freedom and opportunity changing in that country,” the governor said.
On Saturday, Hutchinson said on Twitter, “The death of Fidel Castro opens a freedom window for the oppressed Cuban people. More freedom is not certain but US must seize the moment.”
Asked Monday to expand on that statement, Hutchinson, who led a trade mission to Cuba last year, said Castro’s death “gives us an opportunity that we’ve never had before.”
“I would like to see this first as an opportunity to open up Cuba for the sale of our agricultural products,” he said. “I don’t want that taken off the table. I would like to see that as a step forward, and it is important that this opportunity is there now for enhanced freedom for the Cuban people.
“That’s an objective that’s important, to enhance freedom in commerce and ownership, freedom to choose your professions, the direction that you want to go in life, freedom of movement, all of these are freedoms that have been deprived, that need to be reinvigorated in Cuba. And as we see enhanced freedom, hopefully, we can see an increased relationship with Cuba as we see changes that are there.”