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Thread: Trump to clamp down on Cuba travel and trade

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  1. #1
    Senior Member Judy's Avatar
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    Aug 2005

    Trump to clamp down on Cuba travel and trade

    Trump to clamp down on Cuba travel and trade

    The president’s policy, set to be issued Friday, will roll back Obama’s efforts to normalize relations with the island.

    By Marc Caputo and Daniel Ducassi
    06/15/2017 01:36 PM EDT

    Making good on a campaign pledge, President Donald Trump on Friday will announce a significant rollback of former President Barack Obama’s accord with Cuba by clearly banning tourist travel to the island, restating the importance of the 56-year-old trade embargo with the island and instituting a broad prohibition on financial transactions with companies significantly controlled by the Communist government’s military, according to a draft version of the directive obtained by POLITICO.

    The administration says its goal is to put an end to business transactions that financially benefit the Castro regime while the Cuban people get little in return.

    “My administration’s policy will be guided by key U.S. national security interests and solidarity with the Cuban people,” the draft of the five-point, eight-page Presidential Policy Directive reads. “I will seek to promote a stable, prosperous, and free country for the Cuban people. To that end, we must ensure that U.S. funds are not channeled to a regime that has failed to meet the most basic requirements of a free and just society.”

    For American tourists, Trump’s policy means that the days of drinking Havana Club rum in a Havana club will likely soon be over.

    Under a strict interpretation of the directive, an American probably can’t even stay in an Old Havana hotel or use a tour service because they’re run or controlled by Grupo de Administracion Empresarial S.A., or GAESA, the business arm of the Cuban military that controls a vast swath of the country’s economy, including most of Cuba’s foreign-run hotels. The prohibition includes any subsidiaries or affiliated companies, along with certain other state-controlled entities.

    “The policy the Trump administration is announcing regarding Cuba based on President Trump’s core conviction that what the Cuban exile community is asking for is right and just,” the White House said in a written statement to POLITICO. “The oppressors of the Cuban people are the Cuban government who have increased repression on the island against dissidents and Ladies in White since reestablishing diplomatic relations. Prior to that, it was not clear to some if the Obama policy toward Cuba would work; today it is clear that the Obama policy toward Cuba does not.”

    The GAESA concept was proposed in a bill in 2015 by Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and other Cuba hardliners. The bill went nowhere but the two, especially Rubio, urged Trump to adopt it as a centerpiece of the policy that he is scheduled to announce Friday at a Miami theater that bears the name of Manuel Artime, a leader of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion to topple Castro.

    A Bay of Pigs veterans group endorsed Trump a week before the election. In return, people familiar with the president’s decision-making said, Trump wanted to make good on his promise to crack down on Cuba.

    “This is a new way to enforce the old embargo,” said John S. Kavulich, president of U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council. He estimates that 60 percent of the total Cuban economy is under GAESA’s authority and as much as 80 percent of the tourism economy is controlled by the military-run holding company.

    For U.S.-based companies such as the Marriott-owned Starwood Hotels, the Trump policy could mean the cancellation of its special U.S. government license – obtained last year under the Obama administration – allowing it to sign a deal with GAESA giving it management over a historic Havana hotel.

    The directive instructs the Secretary of the Treasury to consult with the Commerce Department to promulgate new rules 90 days after the presidential policy directive is issued Friday.

    Paying for goods and services from Cuba’s small class of independent entrepreneurs, known as “cuentapropistas” who often run small cafes or inns out of their own homes, will be permitted.

    While tourism to Cuba is banned by federal law, the Obama administration had been allowing people to travel to Cuba and spend money as part of “people to people” educational trips for visitors who plan a full itinerary of educational exchange activities, though there had been little to no enforcement of these requirements.

    The Trump administration is stepping up requirements on those sorts of trips, requiring a full-time schedule of activities that “enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities, and that the travel must result in a meaningful interaction between the traveler” and Cubans, according to the draft. Travelers to Cuba will have to keep detailed records of all their financial transactions in the country for five years to make available to the Treasury Department if requested.

    The president is also directing the Treasury secretary to regularly audit Cuba travel to make sure U.S. travelers are following the rules on avoiding GAESA-linked transactions. Anyone who travels to Cuba, however, might be able to stay at an Airbnb or eat at independent restaurant, although that interpretation is not clearly spelled out in the draft order. But those who go to the island under a U.S. license will need to keep strict notes proving they’re complying with the new executive order – or face fines.

    “The airlines might complain that they will see less demand for travel because travelers can no longer spend money at the military-run properties. But whatever reduction we do see in travel is direct proof of how much the military is benefiting from the current policy,” Rubio told POLITICO. ““The pro-engagement groups point to the expansion of privately owned small business as a major defense of the current policy. This new policy helps them. It puts these private businesses at an advantage, because Americans can only spend money with them, not the military monopoly.”

    Sen. Marco Rubio was “appalled” at the news — although he knew the White House wouldn’t succumb to any threats for a delay, his aide said.

    Rubio said the proposal shifts the onus to the Cuban government to give its citizens the right to prosper without government interference. Rubio, Diaz-Balart and the Trump administration say Obama’s rapprochement with Cuba opened markets more but enriched the military-run government, not the Cuban people. And repression, meanwhile, increased.

    But there’s still healthy skepticism that a crackdown on spending on the island will actually lead to regime change or a substantial improvement of the human rights situation when a decades long embargo has already failed to do so.

    “No matter what President Trump may decide, the net impact on Cuba’s decision making on human rights issues will probably be nil,” said Mark Entwistle, a former Canadian ambassador to Cuba who now advises Canadian and American companies on doing business there.

    The new policy targets state officials, significantly expanding which Cuban government officials are subject to certain financial sanctions, such as being barred from having a U.S. bank account. That previously included not just members of the Cuban cabinet and high-level military officers, but will also now include ministers and vice ministers, top leadership for all Cuban ministries and state agencies, the top leaders of the party-controlled labor union confederation, employees of the Ministry of the Interior (which controls the state security force), employees of the Ministry of Defense, members and employees of the national assembly (as well as members of any provincial assembly), editors of state-run media, and justices and employees of Cuba’s highest court.

    The Justice Department will be required to issue a report to the president within 90 days on American fugitives living in Cuba. Perhaps the most famous example is Black Panther Party member Assata Shakur, also known as JoAnne Chesimard, who was convicted in the 1973 murder of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster, among other crimes. She escaped from prison, and after five years on the lam, fled to Cuba in 1984.

    In what may presage a funding a request for more money for regime change efforts, the Secretary of State and the head of USAID are directed to review all of the U.S. democracy development programs in Cuba to make sure they line up with federal law.

    There will be some other exceptions for spending money in Cuba, though few that would apply to anyone visiting for pleasure. Still allowed will be spending related to U.S. government operations on the island, such as the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station and the diplomatic mission on the island, and spending that supports programs aimed at building democracy in Cuba or further U.S. interests and certain transactions with airports and seaports dealing with travel and trade, such as docking and landing fees.

    Purchasing visas, too, will be permitted for those who are allowed to travel to Cuba. Transactions related to the sale of agricultural commodities, medicine and medical devices— exceptions to the embargo that have already been carved out in U.S. law—will still be okay.

    And remittances from Cubans living in the U.S. will also still be allowed.

    The changes won’t be a complete roll back of the normalization of relations pursued under the Obama administration. The U.S. embassy in Havana will remain open as an embassy, as opposed to its precursor, the “U.S. Interests Section.”

    The Trump administration also won’t be reinstating the “wet foot, dry foot” policy, which gave safe haven to Cuban refugees who successfully reached American shores, on the basis that it encouraged Cubans to make the perilous journey across the Florida Straits. In January, the Obama administration ended the policy, which faced criticism for giving preferential treatment to Cubans over other immigrants.
    Last edited by Judy; 06-15-2017 at 03:01 PM.
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  2. #2
    Senior Member Beezer's Avatar
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    Apr 2016
    Just DO NOT reinstate wet foot / dry foot.

    No more illegal aliens! They can fight for and fix their own country.
    MW and GeorgiaPeach like this.


  3. #3
    Senior Member Judy's Avatar
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    The Trump administration also won’t be reinstating the “wet foot, dry foot” policy, which gave safe haven to Cuban refugees who successfully reached American shores, on the basis that it encouraged Cubans to make the perilous journey across the Florida Straits. In January, the Obama administration ended the policy, which faced criticism for giving preferential treatment to Cubans over other immigrants.
    Well, there is at least that. I'm disappointed to see a retraction instead of an expansion of the relationship, travel and trade, but, am glad to see they will keep the ban on the boat-people and asylum-seekers.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member Judy's Avatar
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    Trump to limit Cuba travel, restrict business deals with military: draft memo

    By Matt Spetalnick and Lesley Wroughton
    Thu Jun 15, 2017 | 4:49pm EDT

    President Donald Trump on Friday will tighten rules on Americans traveling to Cuba and significantly restrict U.S. companies from doing business with Cuban enterprises controlled by the military, according to U.S. officials who have seen a draft presidential memorandum.

    Trump will lay out his new Cuba policy in a speech in Miami that will roll back parts of former President Barack Obama's opening to the communist-ruled island after a 2014 diplomatic breakthrough between the two former Cold War foes.

    Taking a tougher approach against Cuba after promising to do so during the presidential campaign, Trump will make clear that a ban on U.S. tourism to Cuba remains in effect and his administration will beef up enforcement of travel rules under authorized categories, the officials said.

    The new limits on U.S. 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.

    It was unclear, however, whether the new rules would bar American visitors from spending money in state-run hotels and restaurants. Details will depend on regulations to be written in coming months by the U.S. Commerce and Treasury Departments, which will be tasked with turning the presidential memorandum into policy.

    But even as he curbs Obama’s détente with Cuba, Trump will stop short of closing embassies or breaking off diplomatic relations restored in 2015 after more than five decades of hostility, U.S. officials said.

    He will also leave in place some other tangible changes made by his Democratic predecessor, including the resumption of direct U.S.-Cuba commercial flights, though Trump’s more restrictive policy seems certain to dampen new economic ties overall.

    Trump will justify his partial reversal of Obama’s measures to a large extent on human rights grounds. His aides contend that Obama’s easing of U.S. restrictions has done nothing to advance political freedoms in Cuba, while benefiting the Cuban government financially.

    International human rights groups say, however, that reinstating a U.S. policy of isolating the island could make the situation worse by empowering Cuban hardliners. The Cuban government has made clear it will not be pressured into political reforms in exchange for diplomatic engagement.

    At home, Trump’s critics have questioned why his administration is now singling out Cuba for its human rights record while insisting that in other parts of the world it will not lecture other countries on the issue.


    Trump will issue the memorandum when he delivers his speech at the Manuel Artime Theater in Miami’s Little Havana district, the heart of America’s Cuban-American and Cuban exile community. The venue is named after a leader of the failed U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961 against Fidel Castro’s revolutionary government.

    Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who was played a key role in pushing for Trump’s changes, was expected to attend along with U.S. Representative Mario Diaz-Balart and other Cuban-American lawmakers.

    Under the revised travel policy, U.S. officials say there will be tighter enforcement to make sure Americans legally fit the 12 authorized categories they claim to be traveling under, which could spook many visitors, wary of receiving a hefty fine.

    Critics of Obama’s approach contend that many U.S. visitors have taken advantage of eased regulations and looser scrutiny to visit the island for pleasure trips.

    But Trump’s planned rollback of Obama’s policy has drawn opposition from American businesses and the travel industry, which have begun making inroads on the island, as well as many lawmakers, including some of Trump’s fellow Republicans.

    The new policy has come together after contentious meetings within the administration.

    Some aides have argued that Trump, a former real estate magnate who won the presidency promising to unleash U.S. business and create jobs, would have a hard time defending any moves that close off the Cuban market.

    But other advisers have contended that it is important to make good on a promise to Cuban-Americans whose support they considered significant in winning Florida in the 2016 election. Miami is home to the largest Cuban-American community.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member Judy's Avatar
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    The policy is punitive both against the Cuban People as well as Americans. Notice that the decades old Cuban policy was a ban on Americans, not Cubans. The Cuba policy of Marco-Rubio and Cuban-Americans restricts the freedom of Americans, not Cubans. We're banned from visiting a country 90 miles from Key West. We're banned from investing in or with Cubans. We're banned, our rights are restricted, our travel is restricted, our freedom is restricted. I wonder when a Court or a lawyer or Cuban-American or a member of Congress will wake up to that reality? Why would we have such a foreign policy that restricts the freedom of Americans while we stomp our feet and demand more "political freedom" for Cubans?! I've wanted to visit Cuba most of my life but have been prevented from doing so by my own government.

    It's a very unnatural weird policy, and I don't think Trump will let it stand very long, because at it's a vindictive stupid policy that deprives Americans of their right to travel and visit a country they're interested in learning more about.
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