What is Donald Trump's Cuba policy and what impact will it have?

Ross Houston
June 16, 2017

When asked why the administration is setting up stricter regulations on trade and travel with Cuba over human rights after visiting Saudi Arabia during Mr Trump's first official visit overseas, White House officials said that the administration plans on fighting for human rights. One official said the difference was that Trump had specifically promised to take action on Cuba to a rally of the Cuban diaspora past year in Florida, a state which Trump won.

Trump will lay out his new Cuba policy in a speech in Miami that will roll back parts of former President Barack Obama's opening to the communist-ruled island after a 2014 diplomatic breakthrough between the two former Cold War foes.

But most foreign-policy observers think Russian Federation has more to gain if the USA restricts ties with Cuba than if it expands them.

Either way, Trump hopes his measures will prod Cuba to improve human rights - and redirect more USA money to private Cuban businesses. And they will saddle the US government with the complicated task of policing U.S.travel to Cuba to make sure there are no transactions with the military-linked conglomerate that runs much of the Cuban economy.

Slamming the brakes on U.S. -Cuba business deals, and once again, strictly limiting U.S travel to Havana. The rules also require a daylong schedule of activities created to expose the travelers to ordinary Cubans. Even among Cuban-Americans in South Florida, almost two-thirds want to lift the US embargo.

Obama eliminated the tour requirement, allowing tens of thousands of Americans to book solo trips and spend their money with individual bed-and-breakfast owners, restaurants and taxi drivers.

White House officials described the policy changes as in keeping with Trump's promise to restore US restrictions on Cuba unless it provides political and religious freedom for its people, though the expected changes are limited in scope and do not reflect a full reversal of Obama-era policies toward increased engagement and restored diplomatic relations. The US wet foot dry foot policy to protect Cuban refugees who land on American shores will not be altered.

While tourism to Cuba is banned by US law, the Obama administration had been allowing people to travel to Cuba as part of "people to people" educational trips for visitors, a popular classification that a White House official said was "ripe for abuse" by those looking for beach vacations.

"We want the relationship very much to be one in which we encourage people through economic interaction and that process has hopefully been started", an official told reporters Thursday.

Obama worked to enact several changes to Cuban policy during his tenure in the White House.

Leading human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have also urged the administration to keep Cuba open.

"He has focused more on domestic policy and other aspects, such as how to impose restrictions on Middle East travel - for which he has had to confront his country's judicial branch - environmental policy and ties with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation", said Torrico. This will essentially shield US airlines and cruise-ship companies now serving the island. However, the policy changes appear to allow Marriott, Starwood's parent company, to continue operating the hotel. Only the U.S. Congress can lift the embargo, and lawmakers, especially those of Cuban heritage, like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

The son of a Cuban immigrant, Rubio opposed Obama's re-engagement with Cuba, saying Obama was making concessions to an "odious regime".

The change in the USA posture toward Cuba under Trump marks the latest policy about-face by the president.

The reason behind the Trump administration doing so is to prohibit trade transactions from the United States that could benefit the government of Cuban President Raúl Castro financially, until the latter agrees to mend its repressive ways. "That's entirely up to Raul Castro to make that happen".

Soon after his election, Trump declared, vaguely but ominously, that if Cuba did not "make a better deal" he would "terminate deal". Both men plan to be on hand when Trump announces the changes in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood, Friday afternoon.

Donald Trump is setting out to Miami in an airplane, but it might as well be a time machine.

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