Sunday, 19 November, 2017

USA takes steps to make it harder for Americans to visit Cuba

President Donald Trump signed a memorandum vowing to crack down on travel to Cuba in June when he appeared in a theater in Miami's Little Havana to thank Cuban American supporters New Trump Rules Pare Back Obama's Opening to Cuba
Howard Terry | 09 November, 2017, 01:07

The Trump administration announced new policies Wednesday again limiting commercial relations and most individual travel to Cuba. "Today's announcement will only make it harder for Americans to travel to Cuba and support the growing private sector".

The State Department has also published a list of 180 entities including hotels, stores, rum makers, marinas and a economic development zone at the Port of Mariel, which are believed to financially benefit the Cuban military, intelligence and security services and which U.S. citizens will no longer be permitted to frequent.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the new rules will prod Cuba's communist regime to allow "greater political and economic freedom".

The regulations specify that tour groups must be run by a US company and be accompanied by a representative of the organization in a move reversing looser regulations that followed a diplomatic opening brokered by former President Barack Obama in 2015.

And while United States travellers will still be able to make authorised trips to Cuba, they will have to use a US-based organisation and be accompanied by a U.S. representative of the group, Treasury said.

A view of the USA 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 new policy changes will be posted to the Federal Register.

The State Department has said those actions were in response to severe health problems experienced by two dozen American diplomats in Cuba, which it said were the result of unspecified "attacks" on US personnel.

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 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", Leahy said in a statement.

The list of entities that Americans can not do business with includes a special development zone at Cuba's Mariel port, which Cuba hopes to develop into a major Caribbean industrial and shipping hub with tax and customs breaks.

The National Foreign Trade Council, a business lobby group in Washington, called the Mariel restriction "counterproductive" because it would hurt a Cuban government initiative that could potentially benefit Cuban workers.

The administration's policy change comes 20 months after Obama became the first sitting USA president in almost a century to visit the island - part of numerous efforts his administration made to thaw relations between the United States and Cuba.

"U.S. backtracking on Cuba could not come at a worse time", said Collin Laverty, president of Cuba Educational Travel.

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