By reinstating restrictions on independent travelers, the Trump administration’s new policy will hurt Cuba’s emerging private sector that caters to American visitors, critics insist.
In a statement released on Friday evening on government-run Web sites and TV, Cuban President Raul Castro’s administration said Trump’s speech was “loaded with hostile rhetoric that recalls the times of open confrontation”.
While tourism to Cuba is banned by USA 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.
The Cuban government has rejected the newly-announced U.S. policy towards the country and said that any attempt to change the political system on the island would be “destined to fail”. He expresses hope the embargo will be ended, but it can only be lifted by the US Congress which is controlled by Republicans who oppose the move.
The Cuban government response was restrained.
But he won roars of approval and cries of “Viva Cuba libre!” from the invited crowd of Cuban-Americans and Cuban exiles.
The policy also allows Americans to continue patronizing state-run hotels and other businesses that are not directly linked with Cuba’s military and state-security services.
1962: Castro agrees to allow the Soviet Union to deploy nuclear missiles on the island bringing the U.S. and the USSR to the brink of nuclear war.
“President Trump’s policy makes itself, once again, part of the old policy of pressure and strangulation of the Cuban people”, founders Lenier Gonzalez and Roberto Veiga wrote Saturday.
When the Trump regulations are enacted, only travel with an organised group will be allowed and the objective of the trip will be more strictly policed. Trump is preparing to tighten at least some of Obama’s changes, including restricting business with the Cuban military and U.S.travel that resembles tourism.
Obama traveled to Havana last March to solidify a detente between the U.S. and Cuba that his administration negotiated in 2014.
State officials have said Arkansas’ rice industry would be the biggest beneficiary of further easing restrictions between the two nations.
“We have serious worries about the respect for and guarantees for human rights in that country”, the statement said. He will not cut off recently resumed direct U.S. -Cuba commercial flights or cruise-ship travel, though his more restrictive policy seems certain to dampen new economic ties overall.
Moreover, it appears there’s a willingness to keep in place Obama’s efforts to communicate with Cuba.
“The harboring of criminals and fugitives will end”, Trump said.
Castro has announced he will step aside as president in February 2018. Less than a year later, the U.S. Embassy in Havana re-opened, and Obama paid a historic visit to Havana in 2016. And even harder will be determining what sort of travel constitutes the kind of “people-to-people” interactions the Trump administration says it wants to preserve.
Weissenstein reported from Havana and Lederman from Washington.