President Trump to reverse parts of Obama's Cuba policy

Carla Harmon
June 20, 2017

MIAMI | In an overhaul of one of his predecessor's signature legacies, President Donald Trump will redraw US policy toward Cuba on Friday, tightening travel restrictions for Americans that had been loosened under President Barack Obama and banning USA business transactions with Cuba's vast military conglomerate.

Trump delivers remarks on "Apprenticeship and Workforce of Tomorrow" initiatives and signs an executive order at the White House in Washington, US June 15, 2017.

Trump is expected to leave the US embassy in Havana and will not bring back the "wet foot, dry foot" policy that allowed Cuban migrants who made it to the stay in the country, a policy Obama eliminated in the final days of his presidency.

"The new policy centers on the belief that the oppressed Cuban people - rather than the oppressive Castro regime's military and its subsidiaries - should benefit from American engagement with the island", said a Trump administration statement obtained by USA TODAY. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the policy before Trump announces it, despite the president's regular criticism of the use of anonymous sources.

Though the move is certainly a move away from Barack Obama's 2015 rapprochement with Havana, it is not a reversal.

Critics of the changes warn that scaling back travel could hurt small businesses that have sprung up in Cuba, catering to a wave of USA tourists who have come to the island since the travel ban was relaxed. The rules also require a daylong schedule of activities created to expose the travelers to ordinary Cubans. The Trump administration will argue that these businesses fund the oligarchy that runs the Cuban government. "It puts these private businesses at an advantage, because Americans can only spend money with them, not the military monopoly".

"The oppressors of the Cuban people are the Cuban government who have increased repression on the island against dissidents ... since reestablishing diplomatic relations".

Taking a tougher approach against Cuba after promising to do so during the Presidential campaign, President Trump will make clear that a ban on United States tourism to Cuba remains in effect and his administration will beef up enforcement of travel rules under all authorized categories.

Coupled with the loose enforcement and self-reporting of Cuba travel, this policy was abused to enable unofficial tourism, the officials said. The rules will take effect when the Treasury Department has the regulations ready.

In one of the most important changes, transactions with the Business Administration Group, S.A - GAESA - will be prohibited. Airbnb recently reported that in just over two years, Cubans have earned almost $40 million by hosting tourists in their homes.

However, traveling to Cuba in the future is expected to again become more hard under changes imposed by the Trump administration. The main targets are Cuba's military - and wannabe American tourists. It spent subsequent decades trying to either overthrow the Cuban government or isolate the island, including toughening an economic embargo first imposed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

On the stage in Miami, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., said the USA would no longer have to witness the "embarrassing spectacle" of an American president glad-handing with a dictator.

The overarching aim of this new approach is to "empower the Cuban people".

Rubio said the changes will be a step in the right direction.

Trump aides said Thursday that Rubio was "very helpful" to the administration as it spent months reviewing the policy.

"These people are benefitting greatly, not only from Americans spending money, but sharing their ideas with them", said Collin Laverty, founder and president of Cuba Educational Travel.

These new policies reflect what President Trump promised as a candidate to the anti-Castro voters in Florida.

While on the campaign trail, candidate Donald Trump criticized President Obama's Cuba policy. "It's not that he's not opposed to any deal, he's opposed to a bad deal with Cuba". The White House did not give a timetable. The theater is named for an exile leader of the Bay of Pigs veterans' association that endorsed Trump last October.

Other reports by iNewsToday