Individual people-to-people Cuba travel to end

Randolph Lopez
June 16, 2017

South Florida's Cuban-American community sounded off on President Donald Trump's upcoming visit to Little Havana, where he is expected to announce changes to the current US policy with Cuba.

While campaigning previous year in Miami, which is home to a large Cuban-American population, Trump pledged to reverse Obama's efforts to normalize relations with Cuba unless it met certain "demands", including granting Cubans religious and political freedom, and releasing all political prisoners.

By restricting individual to Cuba, the new policy also risks cutting off a major source of income for Cuba's private business sector, which the policy is meant to support.

Getting to stroll through the colorful streets of Havana may soon be much harder for Americans. The dozen accepted reasons for travel included reasons such as "educational activities" or "support for the Cuban people" and - as Politico reports - there was little to no enforcement of making sure US travelers actually held true to their stated reasons for travel.

While such restrictions may not fully cut certain institutions within the Cuban government off from benefits associated with increased US business in Cuba, they will limit how much profit these entities see.

It was unclear, however, whether the new rules would bar American visitors from spending money in state-run hotels and restaurants.

In particular, it looks like Trump will impose new restrictions on travel, as well as limits on US companies doing business in the island. But finding accommodations on the island will become more hard, since the directive bans most business transactions with the Cuban military, which owns the lion's share of Cuba's tourism infrastructure, including hotels.

Ahead of Trump's planned speech in Miami, White House officials said his new policy would end the ability for Americans to travel to Cuba individually under the people-to-people travel category.

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While tourism to Cuba is banned by US law, the Obama administration had been allowing people to travel to Cuba as part of "people to people" educational trips for visitors, a classification that a White House official said was "ripe for abuse" by those looking for beach vacations.

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. Though Trump will announce his new policy this Friday, nothing will change until the agencies implement those regulations. Marco Rubio and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, two Cuban-American lawmakers from South Florida.

It also indicates that the new administration will not reinstate the wet foot, dry foot policy, which allowed Cuban immigrants who reached American soil to remain in the country.

"While the news comes as a step back for travel to Cuba, it is business as usual for Intrepid Travel", said Leigh Barnes, director of Intrepid Group North America.

On Thursday, White House officials said that under the new directive, the US would maintain its embassy in Cuba.

The government says Cuba's electoral system is one of the world's most democratic because municipal assembly delegates are nominated by neighbors and do not have to belong to the Communist Party.

Polls suggest most Americans support the liberalized policy towards Cuba pushed by the Obama administration. And Americans who visit Cuba will still be allowed to bring rum and cigars home with them.

Other reports by GlobalViralNews

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