Trump Places New Restrictions On Travel And Trade To Cuba

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Tighter restrictions on U.S. travellers to Cuba will go into effect on Thursday, officials said, nearly five months after President Donald Trump vowed to crack down. "Far from promoting human rights in Cuba, these new regulations will hurt fledgling entrepreneurs and the rest of the Cuban people by discouraging Americans from traveling there". Americans also will be barred from staying at a long list of hotels and patronizing restaurants, stores and other enterprises the State Department has determined are owned by or benefit members of the Cuban government, specifically its security services.

"We have strengthened our Cuba policies to channel economic activity away from the Cuban military and to encourage the government to move toward greater political and economic freedom for the Cuban people", Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement Wednesday.

Much as Obama used his regulatory authority to loosen restrictions within an ongoing US economic embargo on Cuba, Trump has now changed those regulations to re-tighten them.

A view of the US and Cuban flags prior to the signing of agreements between the Port of Cleveland and the Cuban Maritime authorities in Havana, Cuba, October 6, 2017.

The tighter restrictions are not expected to have a significant impact on American travel to Cuba, that has surged in recent years.

Most travelers will have to go with an authorized group and prove that their trip will largely support and be oriented around "meaningful interaction" with Cuban people.

The new policy changes will be posted to the Federal Register.

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Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy said the regulations were unfair to Cuba, coming as Trump was being "feted in Beijing" by a Communist government "in a country to which Americans can travel freely".

The US Treasury said the measures are created to steer American travellers away from Cuban firms tied to the military and towards the communist island's fledgling private sector.

"The hypocrisy of the White House ideologues is glaring".

"U.S. backtracking on Cuba could not come at a worse time", said Collin Laverty, president of Cuba Educational Travel. The Commerce Department will simplify and expand a license that allows American companies to export certain consumer products to Cuba without asking for special permission from the US government.

Trump's rollback of Obama's opening has not affected a centrepiece of the detente, the restoration of diplomatic ties and the opening of embassies in Havana and Washington.

When it comes travel, individual educational travel not linked to an academic entity will no longer be allowed.

Under the new rules, most individual visits to Cuba will no longer be allowed, and USA citizens will again have to travel as part of a licensed group, accompanied by a group representative.

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