No winners in Trump's reversal of US Cuba policy

The main targets are Cuba's military - and wannabe American tourists.

In Rubio's meeting with the President, he warned Trump that Washington bureaucrats, the Castro government and outside businesses were not going to let him try and a crackdown on trade and travel between both countries.

"I am confident the president will keep his commitment on Cuba policy by making changes that are targeted and strategic and which advance the Cuban people's aspirations for economic and political liberty", Florida Senator Marco Rubio said in a statement. According to island authorities, in 2016 the number of US visitors increased by 74 percent compared to 2015. That changed in 2014 during the first round of normalization when travelers returning from Cuba were allowed to bring up to $100 worth of Cuban alcohol and tobacco products back.

Under the expected changes, the USA will ban American financial transactions with the dozens of enterprises run by the military-linked corporation GAESA, which operates dozens of hotels, tour buses, restaurants and other facilities. For example, if someone in the US has a family member die in Cuba, they can travel to the island nation.

The new Trump policy will also prohibit most commercial transactions that allow money to flow to the Cuban military. The policy will maintain diplomatic relations and allow USA airlines and cruise ships to continue servicing the island.

But other advisers have contended that it is important to make good on a campaign promise to Cuban-Americans.

Photo Credit: President Trump will eliminate one of the more popular types of travel for individual US citizens to Cuba.

The moves to be announced by Trump are only a partial reversal of Obama's policies, however.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said as much to USA senators: "We think we have achieved very little in terms of changing the behavior of the regime in Cuba. and it has little incentive today to change that". The order would allow continued expenditure linked to operations at the Guantanamo Naval Base against the will of the Cuban people and Government, and would also keep the corresponding funds for the USA embassy in Havana.

The policy changes won't take effect immediately, so Americans with plans to travel to Cuba in the near future won't be affected.

Trump's critics have also questioned why his administration is now singling out Cuba for its human rights record while downplaying the issue in other parts of the world.

Asked whether companies that have already signed Cuban contracts, such as Starwood Hotels and Resorts, should expect to lose money, an official said, "that will be handled in the specifics of regulations by Treasury and Commerce".

Amongst things not expected to be affected by Trump's new policy: the embassy in Havana will remain an embassy, remittances will still be allowed to be sent to Cuba and agricultural and medical business will still be allowed.

Trump plans to preserve some of the policy changes made by Obama. Even among Cuban-Americans in South Florida, almost two-thirds want to lift the US embargo.

The measures stop well short of upending Obama-era policies, which sought to end decades of isolation that did little to dislodge Fidel and Raul Castro's regime.

  • Zachary Reyes