President Donald Trump announced in Miami on Friday that he will tighten rules governing travel to and trade with Cuba, marking a significant reversal of policies President Barack Obama implemented during his second term.
These rules also mark the fulfillment of Trump’s campaign promises to dismantle Obama’s executive orders and to put pressure on the Raúl Castro regime.
“A free Cuba is what we will soon achieve,” Trump said during his speech in Florida.
“We now hold the cards. The previous administration’s easing of restrictions on travel and trade does not help the Cuban people, they only enrich the Cuban regime,” Trump added, slamming the Obama administration’s deal with Cuba as “completely one-sided.”
Specifically, the new policy will again limit U.S. tourism to Cuba, which has boomed since Obama thawed relations with the island nation’s authoritarian regime in 2014. American tourists have been able to travel to the country on their own via what’s known as individual “people-to-people” educational trips (something airlines have capitalized on by adding direct flights from the U.S. to Cuba), but they will now have to qualify for a visa under one of 12 authorized travel categories, which will be more intensely enforced. (Educational trips qualify under one of those categories but must be part of a guide-led group trip.)
Cuban-Americans, however, will still be allowed to visit family members on the island.
The new regulations also prevent U.S. citizens from conducting financial transactions with companies controlled by the Cuban military or intelligence services — companies that make up a large percentage of the Cuban economy. In addition to preventing U.S. businesses from dealing with state-controlled companies, the new regulation would also prevent Americans from staying in state-owned hotels, shopping at major retail chains or even using particular tourist services on the island.
Trump won’t, however, break off U.S. diplomatic ties nor close the embassy Obama reopened in 2015. The new restrictions also won’t bar U.S. visitors from bringing home Cuban rum and cigars, nor will they bar airlines or cruise companies from offering service to the island.
Banking transactions will also still be allowed, letting U.S. visitors continue to book accommodations via Airbnb or other private-property rental platforms.
Read more on the new policies here.
Obama first announced the thawing of relations with Cuba in 2014 and traveled to the country in 2016, marking the first visit by a sitting U.S. president in 88 years.
Trump, however, promised to dismantle Obama’s policies throughout the 2016 presidential campaign.
“All of the concessions that Barack Obama has granted the Castro regime were done with executive order, which means the next president can reverse them. And that is what I will do unless the Castro regime meets our demands,” Trump said in September. “Those demands will include religious and political freedom for the Cuban people and the freeing of political prisoners.”