Trump Cuba policy to target Americans' travel, entity that runs tourism

The White House insists that its new approach toward Cuba won't target the country's citizens, but instead, aims to prevent funding to oppressive elements of the country's government.

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 dozen accepted reasons for travel included reasons such as "educational activities" or "support for the Cuban people" and - as Politico reports - there was little to no enforcement of making sure US travelers actually held true to their stated reasons for travel. Trump isn't overturning Obama's decision to end the "wet foot, dry foot" policy that allowed most Cuban migrants who made it onto US soil to stay and eventually become legal permanent residents.

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.

Trump administration officials have debated possible changes to Cuba policy throughout the week, including at a meeting of the National Security Council on Tuesday.

According to the Miami Herald, the new rules also mandate that travelers to the Spanish-speaking Caribbean country be subjected to a Treasury Department audit of their trip to ensure they fall under one of the permitted categories.

The policy is also expected to tighten restrictions on travel to Cuba. It seeks to force Cuba to hold free and fair elections, release political prisoners, and allow political and religious freedom.

The move marks yet another departure from a signature policy of the Obama administration, which ended a decades-long freeze of diplomatic ties with Cuba in 2014.

Speaking from Havana on the call, Emily Morris, an associate fellow at Institute of the Americas at University College in London, said there is concern among Cuban people who have benefited from increased economic cooperation between the two nations.

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.

However, Trump's Cuba policy is not being seen as a blanket travel ban by the transport companies.

"The policy the Trump administration is announcing regarding Cuba based on President Trump's core conviction that what the Cuban exile community is asking for is right and just", the White House said in a written statement to POLITICO.

Americans will still be able to visit Cuba, though they will need special visas of which enforcement will become much stricter, but they will not be able to spend any money at a business owned by a GAESA, other than a few exceptions, notably airports.

Donald Trump campaigning at the Bay of Pigs Museum in Miami in October.

The new limits on US business deals will target the Armed Forces Business Enterprises Group (GAESA), a conglomerate involved in all sectors of the economy, including hotels, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

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

  • Salvatore Jensen