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After Fidel Castro's Death, What's Next For U.S.-Cuba Relationship?

LAKSHMI SINGH, HOST:

Fidel Castro's death on Friday left a lot of unanswered questions about U.S. relations with Cuba going forward. As we've just heard, President Obama took steps in recent years to normalize relations between the two countries easing some trade restrictions and visiting the island earlier this year. He was the first sitting U.S. president to do so since 1928. Now people are looking for clues as to how President-elect Donald Trump might engage with Cuba.

To give us some clarity, we called Javier Corrales. He's a professor of Latin American politics at Amherst College. He's currently a Fulbright scholar in Bogota, Colombia, where we reached him via Skype. Professor Corrales spoke with us in the middle of a thunderstorm, so that's thunder that you might hear in the background. We started by asking him about Donald Trump's statement on Castro's death issued earlier today.

JAVIER CORRALES: Well, it's an interesting statement. You can tell that he is trying to align himself one more time with the hard-line opposition to Fidel Castro, and a lot of people are wondering whether once he becomes president he will introduce more hard-line policies. We don't know. It could very well be the fact that Fidel Castro has died will free him from feeling obligated to be such a hard-liner.

SINGH: The president-elect has threatened to roll back some of President Obama's executive orders opening relations with Cuba. How vulnerable do you think these changes are to being reversed in a Trump administration?

CORRALES: Well, Trump is, of course, an unpredictable person. But I think he will soon discover if he wanted to reverse some of these new policies toward Cuba, the most important constituencies in the Republican Party support the normalization of relations with Cuba, and I'm talking about the farm lobby, the shipping industry, the oil industry, Wall Street, even evangelicals. So if Trump is interested in rolling back some of these changes, he will definitely run into some resistance in the Republican Party.

SINGH: It's interesting you say that because a lot of the voices that we've heard coming out of the Republican Party Congressional Republicans has been to slow down the restoration of full diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba, especially where trade is concerned.

CORRALES: That's right. There is a legitimate criticism that Obama probably went too far. It could very well be that we're not going to see any more concessions from the United States toward the Cuban regime. But that's not the same thing as reversing some of these reforms.

SINGH: Javier Corrales is a professor of political science at Amherst College. We reached him in Bogota, Colombia, via Skype. Thank you, Professor Corrales.

CORRALES: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.