Trump to clamp down on Cuba travel, trade, curbing Obama's detente

In a speech in Miami on Friday, President Trump said he was canceling what he called former President Barack Obama's "terrible and misguided deal" with Havana. The Associated Press reported that the expected changes will ban transactions with a military-linked corporation that operates dozens of hotels and other tourist facilities.

Obama announced in December 2014 that he and Cuban leader Raul Castro were restoring diplomatic ties between their countries, arguing that the policy the USA had pursued for decades had failed to bring about change and that it was time to try a new approach.

Of major note, there will be no change to the "wet foot, dry foot" policy and the USA embassy in Cuba will also remain open.

Cuban-Americans will still be able to travel to Cuba and send remittances, limiting the impact on residents of Florida, where many Cuban emigres settled.

Cuban-American Republicans derided Obama's 2014 policy as a capitulation, The Miami Herald reports in "Trump recasts Cuba policy, takes harder line than Obama on military, travel". For example, the Cuban government could disguise the properties of GAESA under the facade of new entities. And Americans who visit Cuba will still be allowed to bring rum and cigars home with them. Trump will not close embassies or break the diplomatic relations that were restored with the island in 2015.

Trump's new restrictions are aimed toward restricting tourism and stemming funds directed toward the Cuban military but he won't be fully reversing diplomatic and commercial ties with the country. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., have shown no interest in doing so.

Trump is expected to justify the new restrictions on human rights grounds.

Critics said the changes would only hurt everyday Cubans who work in the private sector and depend on American visitors to help provide for their families.

After watching #President Trump in action over the early months of his presidency, many lawmakers and lobbyists have seen his lack of an agenda and policy as an opportunity to try and influence the President to better guide his hand towards their own agendas.

The number of Americans traveling to Cuba, mostly in large groups due to US regulations, has almost tripled in recent years and was expected to reach around 400,000 in 2017, according to agencies.

A tour bus of Transgaviota drives past the US embassy in Havana, Cuba June 13, 2017. The new policy has come together after meetings within the administration.

Trump will reportedly prohibit Americans and United States companies from doing business with a Cuban conglomerate that owns large sections of the island nation's economy, Bloomberg reported.

Last year more than 600,000 Americans traveled to Cuba, about 74 percent more than the year before.

White House officials say there will be some exceptions. "It does not target the Cuban people but the measures are created to restrict the flow of money to oppressive elements of the Cuban regime". They include: free elections, the release of political prisoners and direct pay for Cuban workers.

The main rationale for the reversal is apparently based on the violation of human rights that continues to occur in Cuba, such as arbitrary arrests of human rights advocates and journalists.

  • Zachary Reyes