Trump Cuba policy to target Americans’ travel, military entity –


The U.S. feels like it is in a new Cold War, and the Trump administration is getting a little nostalgic with its policy towards Cuba.

President Trump is planning to announce changes in its relationship with Havana on Friday, including restrictions on Americans’ travel to the island and doing business with the Cuban military, according to accounts of new policies published Thursday.

The Obama administration made historic improvements in ties with Cuba since restarting diplomatic relations in 2014, a move that ended decades of estrangement from one of the U.S.’s closest neighbors.

Though they do not go as far as some feared, the Trump policy changes laid out in the Miami Herald and Politico on Thursday take a harsher stance than the relative rapprochement in recent years and could dramatically affect U.S. business on the island.

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Part of the Obama re-engagement included giving ordinary Americans the ability to travel to Cuba under one of 12 reasons, including educational trips.

Those trips were not subject to strict scrutiny by authorities, meaning that some visits to the island verged on tourism, still illegal under the long-standing embargo against the Castro regime.

Trump’s coming changes will mean that travelers will have to keep records of all their transactions in Cuba for five years in case the Treasury Department audits them to determine if their trips do actually fit in one of the allowed categories, POLITICO reported Thursday.

Educational trips will reportedly be required to travel with a guide from a U.S. sponsoring organization, according to the Herald.

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The influx in Americans going to see the sights has resulted in the rebirth of cruises and air service from the U.S. to the island, with nonstop flights available from New York to Havana.

Those travels and visitors’ ability to use Cuba’s military-run bank are not believed to be affected by the Trump changes, though the Herald reports that the administration’s new policy will include a broad restriction on interactions with the military branch that runs the majority of Cuba’s economy.

The powerful Grupo de Administracion Empresarial S.A also runs most foreign hotels, meaning that Marriott’s Starwood Hotels could lose the special license from the Obama administration it got to operate in Havana.

Americans who go to Cuba, who beyond hotels can stay at privately owned inns, could face problems when they return if they are found to have patronized the GAES.

Sen. Marco Rubio, a Miami Republican who proposed similar restrictions in a bill two years ago, said that the goal of the policy change is to help Cuba’s private sector.

“The pro-engagement groups point to the expansion of privately owned small business as a major defense of the current policy. This new policy helps them. It puts these private businesses at an advantage, because Americans can only spend money with them, not the military monopoly,” he told POLITICO.

The restrictions may have a chilling effect on Americans looking to travel to Cuba, which enjoyed large support from both Democrats and Republicans.

A Morning Consult poll released by the group Engage Cuba earlier this week said that 65% of voters surveyed support Obama’s Cuba policy, including 64% of Republicans.

Despite those attitudes, Trump himself will harken back to the 1960s when he announces his new policy on Friday.

He is set to make his Cuba speech at the Manuel Artime Theater in Miami, named after a Cuban-American exile who led the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961.