WASHINGTON – Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump blasted a report in Newsweek that said he explored business opportunities in Cuba nearly two decades ago, flouting Washington’s economic embargo against the Communist-ruled island.
“I never went to Cuba. I’ve never been to Cuba. I never did business with Cuba,” he told WMUR television in New Hampshire.
“There’s nothing else to say. I never did business in Cuba. I’d tell you very openly if I did. I was not involved in doing business in Cuba,” the real estate magnate said.
Newsweek said that Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts spent at least $68,000 in 1998 on a “foray” into Cuba.
The company cloaked its approach to Cuba by working through a consultancy, Seven Arrows Investment and Development, which in turn disguised its expenditures on the island as humanitarian in nature, according to Newsweek.
While President Barack Obama’s softening of the embargo has made it possible for U.S. firms to do business with Cuba under certain circumstances, any attempt by Trump to invest on the island in 1998 would have been illegal.
Democratic rival Hillary Clinton accused her opponent of resorting to evasion and misleading statements when asked about the issue.
During a recent campaign stop in Miami, Trump promised the city’s large Cuban exile community that he would reverse Obama’s normalization of ties with Cuba unless Havana agreed to respect “religious and political freedom.”
The Washington Post suggested that the allegations of business dealings in Cuba could become a “significant political liability” for Trump as he seeks to win Florida, one of a number of states that could decide the outcome of the Nov. 8 election.