One can hope the recent news of Donald Trump’s business dealings in Cuba will put another nail in the coffin of his presidential aspirations.
Currently of course, relations between the U.S. and the Caribbean island nation 90 miles south of Florida are progressing toward normalization. Almost twenty years ago however, it was still illegal for U.S. companies to transact any sort of business in Cuba without a license from the U.S. Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) – and then, only under very limited circumstances (such as charitable or humanitarian work). That didn’t stop Trump from spending $68,000 in the Communist country for his own purposes, however.
Naturally, campaign manager Kellyanne Conway denied it – at first. However, appearing Thursday on the ABC television program “The View,” Ms. Conway accidentally spilled the beans. Referring to a story that appeared in Newsweek, Conway initially pointed out that it “starts out with a screaming headline, as it usually does, that he did business in Cuba,” then added, “it turns out he decided not to invest there.”
That much is true. There was a decision not to make any investments there. But then, Conway’s tongue began digging her boss’ political grave. When asked if her statement was a denial that Trump spent any money in Cuba, she let it slip:
“I think they paid money, as I understand from the story, they paid money in 1998.”
Under the law at that time, it didn’t matter whether or not Trump was planning on making business investments in Cuba. The terms of the embargo were quite clear: no U.S. citizen, corporate or natural, was to travel to, do any kind of business with, nor spend any money in Fidel Castro’s Cuba.
The $68,000 that was paid by Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts was for expenses incurred by business consulting firm Seven Arrows. The purpose was to send consultants to Cuba in order to get ahead of any future opportunities that might arise as trade restrictions with Cuba were lifted. When Seven Arrows issued its invoice, it recommended that Trump’s company use a Catholic charity known as “Carinas Cuba” in order to get a license from OFAC after the deal was done.
Two mistakes were made: first of all, OFAC doe not issue licenses after the fact. Secondly, the charity in question is called “Caritas,” meaning “virtuous” or “charaitable” – not “Carinas,” which actually refers to the keel of a boat or the part of avian anatomy to which wing muscles are attached.
Will this bombshell hurt Trump’s chances at the White House? It already is – especially with Cuban-Americans in Florida who historically vote Republican and despise Castro. One of the leading citizens of that community, former GOP candidate and Trump supporter Marco Rubio, calls the allegations “very serious and troubling,” but says he will “reserve judgment until we know all the facts and Donald has been given the chance to respond.”
So far, neither Trump nor Richard Field, who heads Seven Arrows Consulting, has had anything to say.