Cuban Americans speak out ahead of Trump's Little Havana visit

Two years after the Obama administration initiated the thawing of United States relations with Cuba, President Trump wants to partially roll back the rapprochement.

The President will travel to Miami on Friday to "make an announcement on US-Cuba policy", said deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders at a press conference. And they will saddle the US government with the complicated task of policing to Cuba to make sure there are no transactions with the military-linked conglomerate that runs much of the Cuban economy.

Most U.S. travelers to Cuba will again be required to visit the island as part of organized tour groups run by American companies.

President Trump is preparing to announce new restrictions on travel and trade with Cuba, backtracking on the policy of greater engagement with the island pushed by his predecessor, Barack Obama.

Trump is also calling for the legalization of all political parties, and free and internationally supervised elections.

It remains unclear how Americans still allowed to visit Cuba would be prevented from spending money that profited the security forces. Successive presidents have eased and tightened that prohibition, and Obama significantly loosened it by allowing individuals to "self-declare" the objective of their travel in one of a dozen allowed categories, including for educational, commercial, or "support for the Cuban people" purposes.

But Trump's planned rollback of Obama's policy has drawn opposition from American businesses and the travel industry, which have begun making inroads on the island, as well as many lawmakers, including some of Trump's fellow Republicans. The Treasury Department will soon issue new regulations regarding the forms of travel that are acceptable.

"The basic policy driver", another official said, was Trump's "concern that the previous policy was enriching the Cuban military and the intelligence services that contribute so much to repression on the island".

A tour bus of Transgaviota drives past the US embassy in Havana, Cuba June 13, 2017.

The influx in Americans going to see the sights has resulted in the rebirth of cruises and air service from the the island, with nonstop flights available from NY to Havana.

Republican senator Marco Rubio, who was played a key role in pushing for Trump's changes, was expected to attend along with U.S. representative Mario Diaz-Balart and other Cuban-American lawmakers.

The official said that there also won't be any changes to regulations on what Americans can bring back from Cuba. Cuba will also not be reclassified as a state sponsor of terrorism under the new policy.

"It is a promise that President Trump made and it is a promise that President Trump is keeping", the official said, citing a pledge Trump made to the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association as the group endorsed him for president during the campaign a year ago. "It puts these private businesses at an advantage, because Americans can only spend money with them, not the military monopoly".

  • Larry Hoffman