Trump Curtails Cuba Travel, Reverses Obama Thaw; Individual Travel Prohibited


The Cuban government said the in no position "to lecture us" on human rights abuses following President Donald Trump's announcement Friday that his administration was taking steps to reverse former President Barack Obama's efforts to normalize relations with the island nation, CNN reports.

"The government of Cuba denounces the new measures toughening the embargo", Cuban state TV said.

"The government of Cuba reiterates its willingness to continue a respectful dialog and cooperation on themes of mutual interest, as well as negotiations on pending bilateral matters", the statement said.

But he did tighten rules for Americans traveling to Cuba, ban ties with a military-run tourism firm and reaffirm the existing USA trade embargo - which will be firmly enforced.

In a statement released on Friday evening on government-run Web sites and TV, Cuban President Raul Castro's administration said Trump's speech was "loaded with hostile rhetoric that recalls the times of open confrontation".

"On the other hand, we think we've achieved very little in terms of changing the behavior of the regime in Cuba and its treatment of people", he said, "and it has little incentive to change that".

The changes will certainly harm relations between Cuba and the U.S. In a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson explained, "The general approach, if I can say that, is to allow as much of this continued commercial and engagement activity to go on as possible because we do see the sunny side, as I described it". The previous administration's easing of restrictions of travel and trade does not help the Cuban people.

Trump's declaration in a crowded, sweltering auditorium was a direct rebuke to Obama, for whom the diplomatic opening with Cuba was a central accomplishment of his presidency.

"The new measures will attack the only sources of growth that the Cuban economy now has: tourism and the private sector", said Pavel Vidal, a Cuban economist at Pontifical Xaverian University in Colombia.

Trump said Friday that any easement of restrictions on doing U.S. business in Cuba would have to wait until political prisoners are freed and fair elections are held.

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"I have a son that farms with me who will be 6th generation", said Bevis.

But the overwhelming majority of the Cuban economy is controlled by the government.

The government says it received more than 4 million tourists a year ago - a record number - of which about 615,000 were US visitors.

Castro also said that "the United States is not in a position to give us lessons".

Under Trump's directive, the departments of Treasury and Commerce will have 30 days to begin writing new travel and commercial regulations.

"America has rejected the Cuban people's oppressors", Trump said Friday in Miami's Little Havana, the cradle of Cuban-American resistance to Castro's government.

Embassies in Havana and Washington are to remain open. The moves to be announced by Trump are only a partial reversal of Obama's policies, however. Trump also agreed not to reinstate the "wet-foot dry-foot" policy that allowed Cuban migrants to have a straight path to legalization upon touching US land.

A senior White House official said the administration's intent was not to disrupt existing business.

Under the revised travel policy, USA 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.

The new policy says Americans will no longer be able to plan their own Cuba trip under a people-to-people exchange license.