International: Trump to announce new restrictions on trade and travel to Cuba

Friday, June 16, 2017 - 09:30

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday will announce plans to tighten restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba and clamp down on U.S. business dealings with the island’s military, rolling back parts of former President Barack Obama’s historic opening to Havana.

Laying out his new Cuba policy in a speech in Miami, Trump will issue a presidential directive to reverse some of the loosened regulations that Obama introduced after a 2014 breakthrough between the two Cold War foes, senior White House officials said.

Trump, taking a tougher approach against Havana after promising to do so during the presidential campaign, will outline stricter enforcement of a longtime ban on Americans going to Cuba as tourists and seek to prevent U.S. dollars from being used to fund what the new U.S. administration sees as a repressive military-dominated government. But facing pressure from U.S. businesses and fellow Republicans to avoid turning back the clock completely in relations with communist-ruled Cuba, the president will leave intact many of Obama’s steps toward normalization.

Trump tweeted on Friday that his new approach would "empower the Cuban people and hold the regime accountable."

The new policy will ban most U.S. business transactions with the Armed Forces Business Enterprises Group, a Cuban conglomerate involved in all sectors of the economy, but make some exceptions, including for air and sea travel, according to U.S. officials and a draft presidential directive seen by Reuters. This will essentially shield U.S. airlines and cruise lines serving the island.

However, Trump will stop short of closing embassies or breaking diplomatic relations restored in 2015 after more than five decades of hostilities. He will not cut off recently resumed direct U.S.-Cuba commercial flights, though his more restrictive policy seems certain to dampen new economic ties.