Reaction to Trump's Cuba shift

President Donald Trump on Friday is expected to announce plans to tighten restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba and clamp down on US business dealings with the military, fulfilling a campaign pledge.

"The new policy will empower the Cuban people", a senior White House official said.

The new Trump policy will also prohibit most commercial transactions that allow money to flow to the Cuban military.

"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.

However, diplomatic relations reestablished by Obama, including reopened embassies in Washington and Havana, will remain and travel and money sent by Cuban Americans will not be affected.

They watched. almost two years ago, then-U.S. President Barack Obama pursued, and secured, a thaw in relations with its longtime nemesis Cuba and the Castro government.

Obama also gave illegal immigrants from Cuba a path to legal status and opened travel to the island nation.

The senior White House officials said Trump would direct executive branch agencies to ratchet up enforcement of this banned tourism through regulations. USA airlines and cruise ships will still be allowed to serve the island 90 miles south of Florida. In addition, they must take detailed records of all their financial transactions for five years to make them available to the US Treasury Department if requested, and also keep strict notes proving their compliance with the new order, otherwise they would be fined. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was instrumental in drafting Trump's changes, with help from Miami Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.

But Trump is expected to make it tougher for Americans to visit and do business on the island while blasting Cuba's alleged human right abuses and harboring of USA fugitives.

US visitors also will be prohibited from staying in any hotels doing business with the Cuban military, including the Four Points Sheraton, which Starwood took over from the military in a deal the Obama administration approved.

"It would be exceedingly disappointing to see the progress that has been made in the last two years halted and reversed by the administration", Sorenson said in an emailed statement. The new policy will restrict this kind of travel for individuals. Airbnb recently reported that in just over two years, Cubans have earned almost $40 million by hosting tourists in their homes.

Donald Trump campaigning at the Bay of Pigs Museum in Miami in October. In this photo, Cubans watch the TV broadcast of the inaugural ceremony of Trump, from Havana, Cuba, Jan. 20, 2017.

These changes will affect Cuba's burgeoning tourist industry that has lured Americans who had always been attracted by the island just 90 miles from Florida but impossibly out of reach thanks to long-standing sanctions.

What followed over the next two years was the most significant change in US-Cuban relations since the 1959 revolution.

  • Salvatore Jensen