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Trump ‘cancels’ Obama Cuba policy, restricts travel and trade


REUTERS

Trump ‘cancels’ Obama Cuba policy, restricts travel and trade

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MIAMI – President Donald Trump on Friday ordered tighter restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba and a clampdown on US business dealings with the Caribbean island’s military, saying he was cancelling former President Barack Obama’s “terrible and misguided deal” with Havana.

Laying out his new Cuba policy in a speech in Miami, Trump signed a presidential directive to roll back parts of Obama’s historic opening to the Communist-ruled country after a 2014 diplomatic breakthrough between the two former Cold War foes. 

But Trump left in place many of Obama’s changes, including the reopened US embassy in Havana, even as he sought to show he was making good on a campaign promise to take a tougher line against Cuba, especially over its human rights record. 

“We will not be silent in the face of communist oppression any longer,” Trump told a cheering crowd in Miami’s Cuban-American enclave of Little Havana, including Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who helped forge the new restrictions on Cuba.

“Effective immediately, I am cancelling the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba,” Trump declared as he made a full-throated verbal assault on the government of Cuban President Raul Castro.

Trump’s revised approach calls for stricter enforcement of a long-time ban on Americans going to Cuba as tourists, and seeks to prevent US dollars from being used to fund what the Trump administration sees as a repressive military-dominated government.

But facing pressure from US businesses and even some fellow Republicans to avoid turning back the clock completely in relations with Cuba, the president chose to leave intact some of his Democratic predecessor’s steps toward normalisation.

The new policy bans most US business transactions with the Armed Forces Business Enterprises Group, a Cuban conglomerate involved in all sectors of the economy. But it but makes some exceptions, including for air and sea travel, according to US officials. This will essentially shield American airlines and cruise lines serving the island.

“We do not want US dollars to prop up a military monopoly that exploits and abuses the citizens of Cuba,” Trump said, pledging that US sanctions would not be lifted until Cuba frees political prisoners and holds free elections. 

However, Trump stopped short of breaking diplomatic relations restored in 2015 after more than five decades of hostilities. He will not cut off recently resumed direct US-Cuba commercial flights or cruise-ship travel, though his more restrictive policy seems certain to dampen new economic ties overall.

While the changes are far-reaching, they appear to be less sweeping than many US pro-engagement advocates had feared.

Still, it will be the latest attempt by Trump to overturn parts of Obama’s presidential legacy. He has already pulled the United States out of a major international climate treaty and is trying to scrap his predecessor’s landmark healthcare programme. (Reuters)

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