Restrictions a reversal of Obama-era engagement policies
The Treasury Department published new regulations Tuesday ending group travel to Cuba for “people to people” educational purposes and prohibiting visits to the island via cruise ships, personal aircraft or personal boats.
The regulations are part of President Trump’s continuing rollback of Obama-era polices which reestablished diplomatic relations with Cuba and expanded U.S. travel and trade. In April, national security adviser John Bolton slammed Obama’s “misguided” policy, claiming it “provided the Cuban regime with the necessary political cover to expand its malign influence and ideological imperialism across the region.”
While commercial aircraft flying U.S.-Cuba routes apparently are still allowed, cruise ships recreational and pleasure craft are now prohibited from departing the U.S. for Cuba. The move is certain to impact liveaboard trips, which have become increasingly popular with American visitors in recent years. U.S. citizens that violate the travel provisions are subject to prosecution. Although enforcement action was rare in the past, the extent to which the Trump administration intends to enforce the new restrictions remains unclear. The new rules do not include new restrictions on money sent by Cuban Americans to relatives on the island.
Critics of the new policies, including some lawmakers and many in the U.S. business community, argue that Cuba’s communist rulers are best undermined by increased U.S. engagement. Engage Cuba, a U.S. coalition of companies and organizations that oppose travel and trade restrictions, said that “restricting Americans’ freedom to travel is an attack on our fundamental right as citizens” and that private-sector Cubans who “rely on American travelers to support their businesses and families . . . should not be used as political pawns.”