By Karen DeYoung, The Washington Post
The Trump administration announced tight new restrictions Wednesday on American travel and trade with Cuba, implementing policy changes President Trump announced five months ago to reverse Obama administration normalization with the communist-ruled island.
Under the new rules, most individual visits to Cuba will no longer be allowed, and U.S. citizens will again have to travel as part of groups licensed by the Treasury Department for specific purposes, accompanied by a group representative.
Americans also will be barred from staying at a long list of hotels and from patronizing restaurants, stores and other enterprises that the State Department has determined are owned by or benefit members of the Cuban government, specifically its security services.
The new rules “are intended to steer economic activities away from the Cuban military, intelligence and security services . . . and encourage the government to move toward greater economic freedom” for the Cuban people, said a senior administration official, one of several authorized by the White House to brief reporters on the changes on the condition of anonymity.
Commercial relations with Cuba are to be similarly restricted to prevent any exchanges with the 180 entities on the State Department’s list.
(U.S. citizens looking to travel to and engage in trade with Cuba will be restricted by new rules, announced by the Trump administration on Nov. 8 to implement a policy President Trump outlined in June. Courtesy of The Washington Post and YouTube)
Administration officials said the new regulations, which will take effect Thursday, would not affect certain existing transactions.
For visitors, that means anyone who has “completed at least one travel-related transaction (such as purchasing a flight or reserving accommodations) prior to” publication of the new regulations in the Federal Register on Thursday.
For businesses, all those who have signed contracts before publication may proceed with them, officials said.
That presumably would include both John Deere and Caterpillar, both of which reportedly signed recent distribution contacts with Cuba.
President Barack Obama restored diplomatic ties with Havana in 2015 and issued regulatory changes that allowed increased commercial relations and expanded travel to Cuba.
Trump said during his campaign that he would “terminate” the Obama normalization if Cuba would not cut a “better deal” with the United States.
In a policy speech in June in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood, he said that “our policy will seek a much better deal for the Cuban people and for the United States of America.
We do not want U.S. dollars to prop up a military monopoly that exploits and abuses the citizens of Cuba.”
He ordered the Treasury, Commerce and State departments to begin writing the new rules that have now been announced.
(The U.S. is cracking down on the island following mysterious sonic attacks to U.S. diplomats. Courtesy of Fox News and YouTube)
Much as Obama used his regulatory authority to loosen restrictions within an ongoing U.S. economic embargo on Cuba, Trump has now changed those regulations to re-tighten them.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), one of several Cuban American lawmakers who opposed the Obama opening, called the new regulations “a step in the right direction” but said their effectiveness was diminished by allowing existing transactions to be grandfathered in.
The Obama changes were widely supported by U.S. businesses.
Engage Cuba, a national business coalition that supports lifting the embargo and expanding trade and travel, called the new regulations a “more convoluted, confusing and counterproductive approach to Cuba policy” that will hurt the Cuban private entrepreneurs it claims to be helping, and abandon U.S. leadership to Russian efforts to regain influence in the hemisphere.
“The great irony of releasing these regulations while President Trump stands in Communist China is dumbfounding, but not surprising,” Engage Cuba President James Williams said in a statement.
U.S. airlines and cruise ships will continue to operate in Cuba under the new regulations.
Although the amount of trade under the Obama changes has not expanded as much as anticipated, a number of U.S. business and agricultural entities have continued to seek contracts in Cuba.
While “tourism” to Cuba has remained prohibited under the embargo, American travel to the island under specified categories has nearly tripled, to almost 300,000 last year.
(US President Donald Trump announced Friday that he was “canceling” Washington’s policy towards Cuba put in place by his predecessor Barack Obama, but several parts of the previous administration’s policy will remain intact. Courtesy of CGTN and YouTube. Posted on Jun 16, 2017)
The most significant change under the new regulations is the elimination of the individual “people-to-people” category of educational travel.
As before the Obama opening, most visitors to Cuba will again have to travel in licensed groups.
One remaining exception appears to be the “support for the Cuban people” category, which requires travelers to “engage in a full-time schedule” of unspecified “meaningful interaction with individuals in Cuba” and activities that support civil society.
All travelers are prohibited from staying at many hotels throughout the country that the State Department has said are connected to various holding companies said to be all or partly owned by the security services.
Instead, the new regulations encourage Americans to stay in rooms rented by private citizens and to eat in private restaurants that have been allowed for a number of years as part of a growing Cuban private sector.
The prohibited list also includes a number of Cuban ports, and the massive Mariel economic zone, shopping centers and individual stores such as Trasval, Cuba’s equivalent of Home Depot in Havana.
Transactions with companies producing Cuba’s most popular soft drinks, such as Tropicola, also are prohibited.
Administration officials said that all travelers returning to U.S. ports and airports from Cuba would have to maintain proof of their activities in Cuba.
(The Trump administration announced Friday that it is pulling more than half of the staff from the U.S. embassy in Havana after mysterious health attacks. The State Department also issued a travel warning for U.S. citizens. Courtesy of CBS News and YouTube. Posted on Sep 29, 2017)
Separately, the administration in recent months has significantly reduced the size of the U.S. Embassy in Havana, suspended issuance of U.S. visas to Cubans there, advised Americans not to travel to the island and expelled 15 Cuban diplomats from Havana’s embassy in Washington.
The State Department has said those actions were in response unspecified “attacks” that have caused health problems affecting two dozen American diplomats in Cuba.
Administration officials said Wednesday that those actions were unrelated to the new regulations.
Original post https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/white-house-implements-new-cuba-policy-restricting-travel-and-trade/2017/11/08/a5597dee-c49b-11e7-aae0-cb18a8c29c65_story.html?utm_term=.12860531cdf0
Fact Sheet on Cuba Policy
President Donald J. Trump is changing the policy of the United States toward Cuba to achieve four objectives:
- Enhance compliance with United States law—in particular the provisions that govern the embargo of Cuba and the ban on tourism;
- Hold the Cuban regime accountable for oppression and human rights abuses ignored under the Obama policy;
- Further the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and those of the Cuban people; and
- Lay the groundwork for empowering the Cuban people to develop greater economic and political liberty.
Summary of Key Policy Changes:
- The new policy channels economic activities away from the Cuban military monopoly, Grupo de Administración Empresarial (GAESA), including most travel-related transactions, while allowing American individuals and entities to develop economic ties to the private, small business sector in Cuba. 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. President Trump’s policy changes will encourage American commerce with free Cuban businesses and pressure the Cuban government to allow the Cuban people to expand the private sector.
- The policy enhances travel restrictions to better enforce the statutory ban on United States tourism to Cuba. Among other changes, travel for non-academic educational purposes will be limited to group travel. The self-directed, individual travel permitted by the Obama administration will be prohibited. Cuban-Americans will be able to continue to visit their family in Cuba and send them remittances.
- The policy reaffirms the United States statutory embargo of Cuba and opposes calls in the United Nations and other international forums for its termination. The policy also mandates regular reporting on Cuba’s progress—if any—toward greater political and economic freedom.
- The policy clarifies that any further improvements in the United States-Cuba relationship will depend entirely on the Cuban government’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 policy memorandum directs the Treasury and Commerce Departments to begin the process of issuing new regulations within 30 days. The policy changes will not take effect until those Departments have finalized their new regulations, a process that may take several months. The Treasury Department has issued Q&As that provide additional detail on the impact of the policy changes on American travelers and businesses.
For more information on this policy see the below links to the relevant United States Government Departments: Department of Commerce, Department of State, Department of Treasury, Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Transportation.