New business, travel restrictions in effort to stop US funds from reaching Cuban military
WASHINGTON(AA)-President Donald Trump on Friday rolled back parts of his predecessor’s historic opening with long-time U.S. foe, Cuba, making it harder for Americans to travel to the island nation.
“Effectively immediately, I am canceling the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba,” Trump said to raucous support at a gathering in Miami, Florida.
The city is home to the largest Cuban diaspora in the U.S., many of whom are highly critical of President Barack Obama’s re-establishment of ties with the Cuban government.
Obama oversaw the re-establishment of relations with Cuba, the reopening of the U.S.’s embassy in Havana and Cuba’s embassy in Washington, and greatly eased American travel to Cuba.
“They made a deal with a government that spread violence and instability in the region and nothing they got, think about it, nothing they got, they fought for everything and we just didn’t fight hard enough, but now, those days are over,” Trump said. “Now we hold the cards.”
Trump said the U.S. embassy would remain open on the communist island and repeated his mantra he would be seeking a “better deal” with the Cuban government.
“The new policy makes clear that the primary obstacle to the Cuban people’s prosperity and economic freedom is the Cuban military’s practice of controlling virtually every profitable sector of the economy,” the White House said in announcing the policy shift.
Under the new rules, Americans will not be able to do business with any entity controlled by the Cuban military’s Grupo de Administración Empresarial (GAESA). That change is likely to significantly curtail U.S. tourism on the island as GAESA has a near monopoly on retail stores, and controls a large swath of foreign-run hotels in the country.
GAESA also own gas stations, restaurants and rental car companies.
Tourism travel will further be restricted to include only group travel for all non-academic visits.
The White House said any improvement to ties will “depend entirely” on Havana’s “willingness to improve the lives of the Cuban people, including through promoting the rule of law, respecting human rights, and taking concrete steps to foster political and economic freedoms”.
The changes will take effect after the Treasury and Commerce departments finalize the changes, which may take “several months”.