President Trump announced his new Cuba directive last Friday in Miami, FL. “I am canceling the previous administration’s completely one-sided deal,” he said.
The new policy, which aims to tighten travel and commercial ties with the communist island nation, is in effect a reversal of Obama’s controversial Cuba policy. The new rules will restrict Americans’ ability to travel to the island, and are seriously bad news for the hotels, airlines, and other services that had already begun to take advantage of increased travel to Cuba.
Obama’s Cuba policy allowed visitors to travel to the island under 12 different license categories, including religious reasons, family visits, journalistic activities, and “people-to-people” – a sub-category that allowed Americans to design their own “educational” trips.”
Trump’s policy allows Americans to visit the island as part of an educational tour group, but removes the “people-to-people” option. Cuban-Americans will still be allowed to visit their families, and all legal visitors will be allowed to bring back Cuban cigars.
The new policy also seeks to restrict cash flow to the oppressive elements of Raúl Castro’s regime by prohibiting any spending that could benefit the Cuban military’s business arm. Considering how much of the island’s travel and tourist economy is controlled by the government, this rule will seriously restrict where Americans can spend their money.
“We will enforce the ban on tourism,” promised Trump on Friday.
“Those who are caught violating Cuban sanctions could face civil or criminal penalties, with individual civil fines that could reach up to $65,000 per violation, according to the Treasury Department,” reports The Hill.
Travelers will be required to keep a log of their trip to the island, and will be subject to questioning upon their return to the US.
The new policy doesn’t restrict commercial flights, but with fewer visitors we can expect to see fewer flight options and more expensive tickets.
Critics argue that Trump is simply trying to undo everything Obama did, and that putting Cuba in the “penalty box” isn’t going to help the nation improve.
“The Cubans need to have greater access to US business and other economies, not less, to be able to take the extra step toward openness,” said Benjamin Rhodes, who was one of Obama’s top negotiators with Cuba.
Author’s Note: We still have a long way to go before we are comfortable with Cuba. Many Cuban-Americans were hurt badly by the Castros, and Obama’s actions were premature. Once the last Castro is gone, perhaps negotiations will be easier.
Raúl Castro is expected to step down in February 2018.