Donald Trump to restrict Cuba travel and trade in latest Obama rollback

The president is expected to emphasize that a ban on American tourism to Cuba remains in effect and announce that his administration will "strictly [enforce] the 12 authorized categories for USA citizens to travel to the island".

The U.S. severed diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961 after Fidel Castro's revolution.

The changes will include rolling back provisions that made it easier for individual Americans to travel to Havana, and American companies who made investments in the country in the past couple of years may see regulatory changes as well, senior White House officials told reporters during a conference call.

Trump's new policy will ban transactions with the Grupo de Administracion Empresarial S.A., a business controlled by the Cuban military.

Regulations allowing US commercial flights and cruise ship to travel to Cuba will not be affected, the officials said.

"You can't put the genie back in the bottle 100 percent", a top White House official said, pushing back against the questions about whether the changes amount to a "half measure" and not a full reversal of Obama's Cuba policies.

Despite Obama's effort to improve ties, the Republican-dominated Congress has refused to lift Washington's 57-year-old embargo against Havana, which makes it illegal for USA corporations to do business with Cuba.

Saying that the aim was to fix what Trump has called a "bad deal" struck by Obama, US officials said the new administration would leave the door open to improved relations if Cuba undertakes democratic reforms such as allowing free elections and releasing political prisoners.

"The goal of these policies is very simple", Rubio said in a message posted on Facebook.

It's unclear, and likely will be until the policy is formally enacted within 90 days of tomorrow, just how strict the enforcement will be, but it could make it illegal to purchase Cuban cigars and rum, as both businesses are owned, at least partially, by the government.

Commercial flights, which resumed for the first time in 50 years last summer, will still continue between the USA and Cuba.

Senator Rubio tweeted his frustration toward the Cuban government for not allowing two pro-democracy leaders to fly to Miami for the announcement Friday.

The moves come after the USA made steps to engage Cuba during the Obama administration.

Protesters who support easing restrictions on Cuba - saying that more engagement with the island is a better bet to undermine the regime - are expected to mass outside the theater in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood where Trump is expected to speak.

The Obama administration made historic improvements in ties with Cuba since restarting diplomatic relations in 2014, a move that ended decades of estrangement from one of the U.S.'s closest neighbors. In particular, it looks like Trump will impose new restrictions on travel, as well as limits on USA companies doing business in the island. Trump's policy would keep some of these changes in place, including direct flights to the country.

The Trump administration has promised to reinstate the regulations, citing "human rights" concerns.

In a contentious internal debate, some aides argued that Trump, a former real estate magnate who won the presidency promising to unleash US business and create jobs, would have a hard time defending any moves that close off the Cuban market.

"Any limitations on travel hurt Cuban small business owners - restaurants, shops, taxis - that depend on travelers for revenue".

  • Salvatore Jensen