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Arizona senator urges Donald Trump to continue improving US-Cuba relations

(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

PHOENIX — U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) urged President-elect Donald Trump to continue down the path to improved relations between the United States and Cuba over the weekend.

Following Fidel Castro’s death Friday at age 90, top aides to Trump signaled that the Cuban government must move toward enacting greater freedoms for its people and giving Americans more in return if it wants to keep the warmer U.S. ties that Obama initiated.

Trump’s aides said nothing on Cuba has been decided. But Trump tweeted 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.”

Flake, a frequent critic of Trump during the presidential campaign, cautioned in a statement against returning to a “get tough” policy that isolates Havana and restricts travel and business activities. Such an approach, Flake wrote, will hurt the Cuban people and make the U.S. government “a convenient scapegoat for failed socialist policies.”

Flake, who accompanied Obama during a visit to Cuba in March, said “allowing more frequent and consequential ties between Cubans and Americans is more likely to accelerate the desired change in Cuba.”

Relations between the Caribbean country and the United States began to improve in recent years, as President Barack Obama and Castro’s brother, Raul, worked to lessen diplomatic tensions that fell into place during the Cold War.

On Monday, the first regularly scheduled commercial flight in more than 50 years from the U.S. to Havana landed while passengers aboard the American Airlines jet cheered.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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