President Trump to Announce Changes to Cuba Policy in Miami

Kristopher Drake
June 16, 2017

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.

Trump will justify his partial reversal of Obama's measures to a large extent on human rights grounds. Likewise, Gaviota, the military-run tourism company which already makes hundreds of millions of dollars off visitors every year, has significantly increased its revenue since the sanctions loosening, and aims to double the amount of hotel rooms under its control in the next three years, spurred in large part by US visitors to the island.

Hoping to bring democracy back to the Communist island, then-President Barack Obama in 2014 restored diplomatic ties with Cuba, reversing decades-old policy.

US visitors also will be prohibited from staying in any hotels doing business with the Cuban military, including the Four Points Sheraton, which Starwood took over from the military in a deal the Obama administration approved. The rules also require a daylong schedule of activities created to expose the travelers to ordinary Cubans. And Americans will no longer be allowed to travel to the island on their own for "people-to-people" purposes, once the new rules are in place.

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.

But while certain USA businesses have increased their presence in Cuba and US visitors traveling under general licenses authorizing people-to-people contacts (read: mostly tourism) have increased since 2014, the Castro regime has continued its long-standing practice of brutalizing its own people.

The senior White House officials said Trump would direct executive branch agencies to ratchet up enforcement of this banned tourism through regulations.

According to the Miami Herald, the new rules also mandate that travelers to the Spanish-speaking Caribbean country be subjected to a Treasury Department audit of their trip to ensure they fall under one of the permitted categories.

The new limits on US business deals will target the Armed Forces Business Enterprises Group (GAESA), a conglomerate involved in all sectors of the economy, including hotels, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "And you can tell where they are because there are dozens of people crowded around there", said Carlos Gutierrez, a Cuban-American who served as Commerce Secretary in the George W. Bush administration. That seems odd given that the Trump administration is not particularly fond of pursuing that agenda in its foreign policy: there was no mention of human rights and political freedom during his visit to Saudi Arabia, for example.

Obama announced in December 2014 that he and Cuban leader Raul Castro were restoring diplomatic ties between their countries, arguing that the policy the USA had pursued for decades had failed to bring about change and that it was time to try a new approach.

Critics fear the measures will not do much economic damage to the Cuban dictatorship, and will give it new ammunition to proclaim itself a victim of U.S. aggression and an excuse to postpone democratic changes.

Rubio's embrace of Trump on Cuba is a slight break for the Florida senator, who has been a harsh critic of Trump's views policy toward hotbed areas like Asia, the Middle East and Russian Federation, and has faulted Trump's comments about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Additionally, although the former president lowered the restrictions on travel, USA citizens are required to declare the reason for travels under one of 12 sections and tourism is not listed. The son of Cuban parents, Rubio has worked closely with Trump to push tightening relations, including multiple meetings, phone calls and at least one dinner, according to officials.

Rubio said that he is "very proud of what the president will be announcing", in a video posted to Facebook.

Despite those attitudes, Trump himself will harken back to the 1960s when he announces his new policy on Friday.

Amongst things not expected to be affected by Trump's new policy: the embassy in Havana will remain an embassy, remittances will still be allowed to be sent to Cuba and agricultural and medical business will still be allowed. "We want to empower and we want to strengthen the Cuban people without strengthening the Cuban military, which controls a significant percentage of their economy".

Trump had previously said he supported restoring diplomatic relations but wished the US had negotiated a better deal.

Trump expected to make his announcement in Miami Friday at 1pm. The theater is named for an exile leader of the Bay of Pigs veterans' association that endorsed Trump last October.

Other reports by Ligue1talk

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