Trump administration restricts non-family, recreational travel to Cuba

by Wesley Brown ([email protected]) 515 views 

The U.S. Departments of Commerce and Treasury on Tuesday (June 4) moved forward with plans to fully implement President Donald Trump’s foreign policy changes on Cuba first unveiled two years ago, which essentially roll back Obama-era rules that expanded travel and trade with the communist Caribbean nation.

In separate statements released by the U.S. Commerce and Treasury departments, the administration outlined regulatory changes first announced on April 17 and unveiled new restrictions on non-family travel to Cuba. The Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) unveiled amendments to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR) to further implement the President’s foreign policy on Cuba.

These amendments, officials said, complement changes to the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) Export Administration Regulations (EAR), which were also unveiled Tuesday. Going forward, the U.S. will prohibit U.S. travelers from going to Cuba under the previous ‘group people-to-people educational’ travel authorization. Also, Americans will no longer be permitted to visit Cuba via passenger and recreational vessels, including cruise ships and yachts, and private and corporate aircraft.

“Cuba remains communist, and the United States, under the previous administration, made too many concessions to one of our historically most aggressive adversaries,” said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. “The Trump Administration recognizes the threat Cuba’s government poses in the region, and the Commerce Department is acting to limit commercial activity that provides revenue for the Cuban regime. Holding other countries accountable remains a focus for this Administration and we will remain vigilant.”

Added Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin: “Cuba continues to play a destabilizing role in the Western Hemisphere, providing a communist foothold in the region and propping up U.S. adversaries in places like Venezuela and Nicaragua by fomenting instability, undermining the rule of law, and suppressing democratic processes.

“This Administration has made a strategic decision to reverse the loosening of sanctions and other restrictions on the Cuban regime. These actions will help to keep U.S. dollars out of the hands of Cuban military, intelligence, and security services,” said Mnuchin concerning the Treasury changes that will take effect on June 5 when they are published in the Federal Register.

Under former President Barack Obama, the U.S. took unprecedented steps to improve and normalize relations with Cuba, moving only one step away from legislative approval to end the five-decades-old trade embargo against the communist island nation. In early 2015, the Obama administration eased restrictions on travel to Cuba for Americans whose trips fit into one of 12 approved categories, including educational, religious and humanitarian reasons.

In September 2015, Gov. Asa Hutchinson was the first governor in the U.S. after those changes to make a trade and diplomatic visit to the Caribbean neighbor. On that trade mission, he led a large delegation of state business, government and education officials to Cuba just after the Commerce and Treasury departments under President Obama first announced revisions to CACR and EAR rules that were rolled back today.

After that three-day trade mission, Hutchinson sent letters to all four of Arkansas Congressional leaders asking them to support legislation that would help open the Cuban economy to “nearly $40 million” in Arkansas products.