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People arrive to pay their last respects to late revolutionary leader Fidel Castro at Revolution Square in Havana, on November 29, 2016. (Pedro Pardo/AFP/Getty Images)
People arrive to pay their last respects to late revolutionary leader Fidel Castro at Revolution Square in Havana, on November 29, 2016. (Pedro Pardo/AFP/Getty Images)

Globe editorial

Donald Trump’s folly on long-suffering Cuba Add to ...

Donald Trump’s approach to Cuba is singularly futile. President Barack Obama has sensibly made some progress to encourage the partly post-communist island to move toward liberal capitalism. There is no reason to punish Cubans now for the oppression that Fidel and Raul Castro inflicted on them for so many years.

But the American president-elect tweeted on Monday, “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.”

Mr. Trump should remember that “Cuba” is not synonymous with President Raul Castro or his largely unlamented brother Fidel. The vast majority of the people of Cuba do not want to continue their long decades of suffering, with the harsh repression of almost any dissent, while magnificent buildings from another era crumbled around them in the once grand streets of Havana.

Opinion: Why do we still romanticize Cuba, the East Berlin of the Caribbean?

John Ibbitson: Trudeau's statement on Castro a reminder that Canada willing to go own way on Cuba

Read more: From Brazil to Venezuela, Fidel Castro’s influence felt across Latin America

On the very day of Mr. Trump’s ill-considered tweet, the first commercial flight from the U.S. landed in Cuba – that is, since the Castroite revolution – to be followed by 110 more. Arrangements for American cruise ships to stop over at the Caribbean nation are well under way, and there are already hotels in Cuba being managed by American companies.

What on earth would be the point of “extracting” new concessions from emerging Cuban businesses? No doubt there is a case to be made that some of the foreign investors of the 1950s, whose properties and enterprises were seized, have claims to compensation, but surely most of these losses should be written off.

The embargo against Cuba enacted by the U.S. Congress so many decades ago has achieved nothing, other than providing occasions for American politicians to get Cuban exiles worked up.

President Obama realized that, with the Republican dominance of Congress, the futile embargo from the Eisenhower administration would remain past his time in the White House, but that there were many administrative measures – including formal diplomatic relations – that could make a large difference to Cubans and their exiled friends and relatives in the U.S.

So far that policy has worked admirably. Mr. Trump may yet see beyond his ungenerous tweet.

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