Former President Barack Obama may have begun normalizing relations with Cuba, but President Donald Trump will be re-tightening regulations regarding travel.
“The president vowed to reverse the Obama administration policies towards Cuba that have enriched the Cuban military regime and increased the repression on the island – it is a promise that President Trump made and it is a promise that President Trump is keeping”, one senior administration official said during the briefing. The ostensible goal was to foster a mutual connection between citizens of the two countries in a structured and regulated fashion.
Trump’s changes, shared Thursday with the Miami Herald, are meant to sharply curtail cash flow to the Cuban government and pressure its communist leaders to let the island’s fledgling private sector grow. Refusing to negotiate domestic reforms in exchange for USA concessions is perhaps the most fundamental plank of Cuba’s policy toward the U.S.
The president will ban U.S. tourist travel to the island, restate the importance of the trade embargo and institute a broad prohibition on financial transactions with companies controlled by the Cuban military, according to Politico, which got a draft version of the new policy.
Additionally, although the former president lowered the restrictions on travel, USA citizens are required to declare the reason for travels under one of 12 sections and tourism is not listed. The policy directive calls for an ironing out of the rules between the various government agencies within 90 days of its announcement, which will take places tomorrow at a Miami theater named after an iconic Cuban dissident.
These changes will affect Cuba’s burgeoning tourist industry that has lured Americans who had always been attracted by the island just 90 miles from Florida but impossibly out of reach thanks to long-standing sanctions.
When asked why the administration is setting up stricter regulations on trade and travel with Cuba over human rights after visiting Saudi Arabia during Mr Trump’s first official visit overseas, White House officials said that the administration plans on fighting for human rights.
A group of 54 U.S. senators reintroduced legislation in May to repeal all remaining restrictions on travel to Cuba, signaling support for U.S. -Cuba detente on Capitol Hill.
Critics of Obama’s approach contend that many US visitors have taken advantage of eased regulations and looser scrutiny to visit the island for pleasure trips.
Saying that the aim was to fix what Trump has called a “bad deal” struck by Obama with Havana, one USA official said the new administration would leave the door open to improved relations if Cuba undertakes democratic reforms such as allowing free and fair elections and the release of political prisoners. Nor will Cuban-Americans’ ability to make unlimited family visits and remittances to Cuba be affected. “We can’t put the genie back in the bottle 100 percent-I think this is an effort to improve upon what the president has said is a very bad deal”.
“If we’re going to have more economic engagement with Cuba, it will be with the Cuban people”, Rubio told the Miami Herald.
For Cubans, the shift risks stifling a nascent middle class that has started to rise as Americans have flocked to the island on airlines, patronizing thousands of private bed-and-breakfasts.
Among the conditions that would have to be met in order to further Trump administration negotiations are the holding of free and fair elections, as well as the freeing of political prisoners in Cuba, the administration officials said. And U.S. companies will still be allowed to support telecommunications and Internet service on the island.