Clinton accuses Trump of flouting Cuba trade embargo

CHICAGO • Democrat Hillary Clinton has accused Mr Donald Trump of breaking the law by violating the United States trade embargo with Cuba, slamming her rival as dishonest and willing to put his interests before the country.

She said Mr Trump's business interests in Cuba in the 1990s "certainly flout American foreign policy".

Newsweek had earlier reported that Trump hotel and casino executives spent US$68,000 (S$93,000) while trying to get a foothold in Cuba during a trip in 1998. That was well before the US loosened its decades-old embargo and when expenditures in Cuba were illegal without US government approval.

 

A former Trump executive, who spoke anonymously, said the company did not obtain a government licence for its spending before the trip. The issue plays into Mrs Clinton's line of attack against her Republican rival. Her campaign has framed the election as an existential moment for the republic: a choice between Mrs Clinton's safe pair of hands and the latent authoritarianism of an erratic, duplicitous mogul.

The issue could also cause Mr Trump problems in the swing state of Florida - where anti-communist Cuban Americans make up a vocal slice of the electorate. Polls show both nominees running virtually neck and neck there.

"This adds to the long list of actions and statements that raise doubts about his temperament and qualification to be president and commander-in-chief," said Mrs Clinton. She accused Mr Trump of continuing to "stonewall the American voters" on his taxes and business interests "before they cast their votes, early or on Nov 8".

Facing questions about the report, Mr Trump's campaign manager Kellyanne Conway all but acknowledged violating the embargo. "As I understand from the story, they paid money in 1998," she said in a TV interview. But Mr Trump ultimately "decided not to invest there", she added, saying the real estate billionaire has remained "very critical" of Cuba and the Castro regime.

Newsweek reported that the company did not spend the money directly, but funnelled the funds through a consulting firm, with Mr Trump's knowledge, to make it appear as if it were part of a charitable effort.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 01, 2016, with the headline 'Clinton accuses Trump of flouting Cuba trade embargo'. Print Edition | Subscribe