October 24, 2016 at 11:14 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Trump tempers opposition to normalized U.S., Cuba relations

Cuba, gay news, Washington Blade

Donald Trump on Oct. 23, 2016, tempered his opposition to the normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba during an interview with a Miami television station. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Donald Trump on Sunday appeared to backtrack from his previous call to reverse the normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba.

“The agreement President Obama signed is a very weak agreement,” Trump told WFOR, a Miami television station, during an interview at his golf course in Doral, Fla. “We get nothing. The people of Cuba get nothing and I would do whatever is necessary to get a good agreement.”

“An agreement is fine,” he added. “It has to be a strong, good agreement that’s good for the Cuban people.”

Trump spoke to WFOR less than two weeks after he said he would “reverse” the normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba “until freedoms are restored” on the Communist island.

“I would do whatever you have to do to get a strong agreement,” Trump told WFOR. “People want an agreement, I like the idea of an agreement, but it has to be a real agreement. So if you call that for negotiation purposes, whatever you have to do to make a great deal for the people of Cuba.”

President Obama in September nominated Jeffrey DeLaurentis — a career diplomat who has met with Cuban LGBT rights advocates — to become the first U.S. ambassador in Cuba in more than 50 years. Trump told WFOR that he “would wait” to appoint an ambassador “until we have the agreement.”

“I would want to get a very powerful agreement,” he said. “The people of Cuba have been waiting for a long time. The people here formerly of Cuba have been waiting a long time. We can wait a little bit longer and get the kind of agreement we want.”

Obama in December 2014 announced the U.S. would begin the process of restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba that ended in 1961.

The U.S. and Cuba reopened their embassies in Havana and Washington in 2015.

The Adonia, a cruise ship that Carnival Corp.’s Fathom brand operates, in May became the first cruise ship to sail from the U.S. to Cuba in more than 50 years. Commercial flights between the two countries resumed in August.

The Adonia, gay news, Washington Blade

The Adonia, a U.S. cruise ship, docked in Cienfuegos, Cuba, on May 19, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Critics of the normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba continue to point out the country’s poor human rights record.

Security agents on Oct. 9 arrested Maykel González Vivero, a gay independent Cuban journalist and LGBT rights activist, while he was covering the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in the city of Baracoa. Nelson Gandulla, president of the Cuban Foundation for LGBTI Rights, an independent advocacy group, told the Washington Blade in March that police harassed him at his home near the city of Cienfuegos before Obama visited Cuba.

Newsweek reported late last month that Trump’s company violated the U.S. embargo against Cuba in 1998 when it spent $68,000 on a trip to the Communist island that focused on exploring business opportunities. An article that Bloomberg published in July notes four of the Republican billionaire’s associates traveled to Havana in late 2012 or early 2013 to explore “golf-related opportunities” for the Trump Corporation.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a Cuban American Republican who has endorsed Trump, is among those who expressed concern over the Newsweek report.

Trump appeared to acknowledge his associates’ trip to Havana during the WFOR interview.

“I know they had some meetings,” he said.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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