White House announces new travel and trade restrictions on Cuba

New Trump Rules Pare Back Obama's Opening to Cuba -- Update

"They talk about supporting entrepreneurs and the private sector", said Laverty.

"We have strengthened our Cuba policies to channel economic activity away from the Cuban military and to encourage the government to move toward greater political and economic freedom for the Cuban people", Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

The State Department published a list of groups and businesses linked to the Cuban military, intelligence or security services that they believe disproportionately benefit the Cuban government at the expense of Cuba's private sector. Business deals already reached with entities on the prohibited list will be allowed to proceed.

In total, more than 80 hotels, 10 stores, 5 marinas and 2 tourist agencies in Cuba are restricted. The list features 180 entities, including 83 hotels and 10 Havana boutiques.

To that end, the Treasury Department said it is expanding and simplifying a license that allows some USA exports to Cuba despite the embargo.

The regulations specify that tour groups must be run by a US company and be accompanied by a representative of the organization in a move reversing looser regulations that followed a diplomatic opening brokered by former President Barack Obama in 2015. "Restrictions on trade and travel are hammering Cuba's private sector, which has grown through interaction with US travelers and USA companies, and put the USA on the sidelines, politically and economically, at a time of transition in Cuba".

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The same goes for those traveling for educational purposes unless they have a certification letter from the organization.

But those traveling to support Cuba's people must have a daylong schedule of activities created to expose them to Cubans and steer dollars toward citizens, such as renting rooms in private homes.

A fact sheet released by the Treasury Department noted that, "Renting a room in a private Cuban residence (casa particular), eating at privately owned Cuban restaurants (paladares), and shopping at privately owned stores run by self-employed Cubans (cuentapropistas) are examples of authorized activities".

American businesses, travelers, and commercial engagements that were in place before the changes, and have authorization, will be allowed to keep their arrangements.

Travel by Americans to the island had exploded in the months since President Barack Obama renewed diplomatic ties with Cuba in 2015, following a half-century of Cold War-era hostility.

The new rules were criticized as too lax by Republican leaders who favor a hard line, but as counterproductive by those who agreed with Obama's rationale for the detente: that Washington's many decades of isolating the Caribbean island failed to force change. Americans can still travel on educational and "people to people" trips as well as visits created to support the Cuban people by patronizing privately owned small businesses that have popped up across the island in recent years.

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