White House implements new Cuba policy restricting travel, trade

White House implements new Cuba policy restricting travel, trade

White House implements new Cuba policy restricting travel, trade

The Trump administration announced new rules Wednesday to make it tougher for USA businesses to work in Cuba and for Americans to travel to the island.

The departments of State, Treasury and Commerce announced the adoption of "coordinated actions" to implement the document signed by President Donald Trump on June 16 in Miami, Florida, which includes banning USA business people from doing transactions with more than 180 Cuban companies.

"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 Wednesday.

Business contracts and travel arrangements already in place will be allowed to go ahead and will not be subject to the restrictions, officials told reporters. The administration took several months to finalize the details of the new rules, which will take effect Thursday.

Such measures entail changes in the program of sanctions against Cuba that was announced by the Republican president in June, when he made a decision to roll back several steps on Cuba taken his predecessor, Barack Obama (2009-2017). "The hypocrisy of the White House ideologues is glaring", Leahy said.

There was no immediate response to the new regulations from the Cuban government.

The administration says it is keen to support such small private enterprises that have sprung up around the country under President Raul Castro's reforms to the largely state-controlled economy.

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"He is putting us in serious danger by frightening away American visitors looking to rent our properties", said Norma Hernandez, who rents out rooms on Airbnb and who said her business flourished over the past year thanks to a surge in USA visitors.

The rules come amid deep strains in the U.S. -Cuba relationship stemming from invisible, unexplained attacks that have harmed more than two dozen U.S. government personnel in Havana since 2016. Americans are banned from doing business with them - making travel even more complicated.

The regulations permit continuance of airline and cruise travel and existing business relationships. Officials said they would use information obtained from several US agencies to catch violators, who could be subject to penalties and criminal prosecution.

The Cuban hotels listed included those run by military-linked chains Gaviota and Habaguanex.

Any entity on that list, will now not be allowed to engage in financial transactions with Americans and visa versa.

It also targets a new cargo port and special trade zone outside the city of Mariel that has been the focus of Cuba's efforts to draw foreign investment in manufacturing and distribution. Before Obama's opening, travel by many Americans was similarly restricted to such organized trips.

Hotels, stores, marinas, tourist agencies, industries are also on the list - including government-owned rum makers Ron Caney and Ron Varadero.

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