Trump to Tighten Cuba Travel Policies But Doesn't Reverse Them

Trump to Tighten Cuba Travel Policies But Doesn't Reverse Them

Americans traveling to Cuba will face more scrutiny and potentially audits of their trip when they get back home in order to prove their dollars didn't go to the Cuban military's pockets, which control much of the tourism economy.

"New restrictions on engagement with Cuban economy only pushes Cuba to China and Russian Federation who will gladly make up the difference", said Ben Rhodes, the architect of Obama's Cuba policy.

The policy calls on Americans traveling to Cuba to use "private businesses and services provided by the Cuban people, rather than businesses and services provided by". The rules also require a daylong schedule of activities created to expose the travelers to ordinary Cubans.

It was unclear, however, whether the new rules would bar American visitors from spending money in state-run hotels and restaurants.

By law, travel to the island from the U.S.is still generally limited to 12 authorized categories such as educational activity, humanitarian projects, and support for the Cuban people.

Obama, after years of clandestine work with the Castro regime, announced in 2014 that the United States would re-establish diplomatic relations and reopen the American embassy in Havana, which was closed in 1961 following the Cuban revolution. The policy will maintain diplomatic relations and allow USA airlines and cruise ships to continue servicing the island.

"While the news comes as a step back for travel to Cuba, it is business as usual for Intrepid Travel", said Leigh Barnes, director of Intrepid Group North America. They believe that the more contact Cubans and Americans have and the more opportunities Cubans have to form entrepreneurial ventures - helped by Americans - the more pressure there will be for the political system to change on the island. 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.

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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.

Trump said throughout the 2016 campaign that he was willing to rollback diplomatic relations with the communist regime in Cuba. Before the Obama administration relaxed travel restrictions, the number of US visitors who were not of Cuban origin to the island was 91,254 in 2014, but that figure had tripled to 284,837 in December 2016, according to statistics from the Cuban government. How big the changes in policy will be, however, remains to be seen.

She did not provide specific details about what the president planned to announce, though other people familiar with administration discussions have said he plans to impose new limitations on commerce.

Tour operators offering licensed people-to-people tours will not be directly impacted by the new rules. Dozens of US businesses and agricultural interests are operating in Cuba or want to, potentially worth billions of dollars a year.

"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 previous year.

Since the rapprochement with the U.S., the Cuban government has repeatedly said it will hold talks on any topic the USA wants to discuss.

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