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Travel to Cuba gets much harder Thursday under new Trump rules

09 November, 2017, 01:56 | Author: Kristen Ingram
  • Travel to Cuba gets much harder Thursday under new Trump rules

"08 de noviembre de 2017, 12:57Washington, Nov 8 (Prensa Latina) The government of the United States today announced more restrictions to US citizens interested in doing business with Cuba and traveling to the Caribbean island, by virtue of a presidential memorandum that reverses major aspects of the two countries" rapprochement.

The restrictions are aimed at finally enacting what Trump in June described as plans to reverse the Obama-era diplomatic opening with the communist-ruled island.

"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. It is meant to divert business from GAESA, a Cuban military conglomerate that's expanded into the Cuban economy.

Effective Thursday, Americans who want to travel to Cuba will have to go with an organized tour group run by a USA company, and a representative of the company must accompany the travelers.

The changes, detailed Wednesday, aim to negate much of former President Barack Obama's large-scale efforts to normalize diplomacy with the Caribbean island nation after more than a half-century of icy relations.

In a statement, the group Engage Cuba - which advocates for an end to the U.S. embargo on Cuba - said the regulations "create a more convoluted, confusing and counterproductive approach to Cuba policy".

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

"A backward-looking policy harms both Cubans and Americans", she told Anadolu Agency. A representative of the sponsoring group must accompany the travelers.

Officials insisted that the new, tougher rules had no connection to the attacks.

The Treasury Department is exempting trips booked before Trump announced his Cuba policy on June 16.

The regulations permit continuance of airline and cruise travel and existing business relationships.

It's unclear how aggressively the USA will police the new rules. These include GAESA and CIMEX, holding companies that control most retail business on the island; Gaviota, the largest tourism company; and Habaguanex, which runs Old Havana. Officials said they would use information obtained from several US agencies to catch violators, who could be subject to penalties and criminal prosecution.

It also targets a new cargo port and special trade zone outside the city of Mariel that has been the focus of Cuba's efforts to draw foreign investment in manufacturing and distribution.

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

In total, more than 80 hotels, 10 stores, 5 marinas and 2 tourist agencies in Cuba are restricted.

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