Door to Cuba closes a bit

U.S. com­merce on the is­land is re­stricted, but the em­bassy in Ha­vana stays open.

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - BY TRACY WILKIN­SON tracy.wilkin­son@la­times.com

Pres­i­dent Trump ges­tures as he signs pol­icy changes in Mi­ami on Fri­day to re­in­state some re­stric­tions on travel.

MI­AMI — Pres­i­dent Trump on Fri­day rolled back some, but not all, of his pre­de­ces­sor’s his­toric open­ing to Cuba, mak­ing it more dif­fi­cult to travel to and do busi­ness with the Com­mu­nistruled is­land.

In a speech in Mi­ami’s Lit­tle Ha­vana, Trump said Cuban rulers were prof­it­ing from bet­ter re­la­tions with Wash­ing­ton but that or­di­nary Cuban cit­i­zens con­tin­ued to be re­pressed.

Trump said he was “com­pletely can­cel­ing” the “ter­ri­ble and mis­guided deal” that Pres­i­dent Obama forged in se­cret ne­go­ti­a­tions in 2014 with Pope Fran­cis and other in­ter­na­tional lead­ers.

“We will not be silent in the face of Com­mu­nist op­pres­sion any longer,” Trump said. “Ef­fec­tive im­me­di­ately, I am can­cel­ing the last ad­min­is­tra­tion’s com­pletely one-sided deal with Cuba.”

The ac­tual or­der Trump signed, how­ever, was more mod­est than that sweep­ing rhetoric might sug­gest. His di­rec­tive left key el­e­ments of Obama’s over­tures open: He did not close the U.S. em­bassy in Ha­vana, nor did he com­pletely block com­merce.

Cuba’s lead­ers on Fri­day night crit­i­cized Trump’s “hos­tile rhetoric” and called his ac­tions a re­turn to “the co­er­cive meth­ods of the past.”

A gov­ern­ment state­ment sug­gested Trump was in­flu­enced not by opin­ion polls, which fa­vor im­proved U.S.Cuban re­la­tions, but by a mi­nor­ity of Cuban Amer­i­cans. How­ever, the Cuban lead­ers did not threaten re­tal­ia­tory mea­sures. They said they would be will­ing to con­tinue ne­go­ti­at­ing with the U.S., so long as it was via “re­spect­ful di­a­logue.”

In ad­di­tion, the new re­stric­tions will not take place im­me­di­ately and are not ex­pected to force busi­nesses to un­wind ex­ist­ing deals, an ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity, told re­porters in a brief­ing Thurs­day.

John Kavulich, di­rec­tor of the Cuba Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion, which tracks busi­ness with the is­land, said busi­nesses will have 90 days to make deals.

“The starter pis­tol has been fired,” he said.

The re­stric­tions drew ob­jec­tions from the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce, which said in a state­ment that Trump’s moves “ac­tu­ally limit the pos­si­bil­ity for pos­i­tive change on the is­land.”

The main goal of the new reg­u­la­tions is to keep money out of the hands of Cuba’s mil­i­tary and in­tel­li­gence ser­vices and “em­power the Cuban peo­ple,” a White House of­fi­cial said.

The new rules in­clude pro­hi­bi­tions on Amer­i­cans spend­ing money on busi­nesses con­trolled by the mil­i­tary, which has a wide reach in the Cuban econ­omy. That change would af­fect some pro­posed ho­tel projects in which Cuban en­ti­ties con­trolled by the mil­i­tary would be part­ners.

In ad­di­tion, rules on Amer­i­can travel to Cuba will be tight­ened, lim­it­ing ca­sual tourism.

But air­lines will con­tinue to be able to fly to Ha­vana, and cruise ships will still dock at the is­land.

Trump’s speech, be­fore an au­di­ence that in­cluded vet­er­ans of the 1961 Bay of Pigs in­va­sion — an ef­fort by CIA-backed Cuban ex­iles to over­throw Fidel Cas­tro’s gov­ern­ment — was heavy with Cold War rhetoric.

It amounted to an ef­fort to par­tially re­turn to the sta­tus quo from be­fore De­cem­ber 2014, when Pres­i­dent Obama and Cuban Pres­i­dent Raul Cas­tro an­nounced they were re­open­ing diplo­matic ties af­ter a half-cen­tury of hos­til­ity.

The tim­ing and lo­ca­tion of Trump’s an­nounce­ment raised some eye­brows. He came to Mi­ami as his vice pres­i­dent and three Cab­i­net sec­re­taries were host­ing lead­ers of Mex­ico and Cen­tral Amer­ica in a two-day con­fer­ence on im­mi­gra­tion and re­gional pros­per­ity.

Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil spokesman Michael An­ton de­nied that the tim­ing was aimed at Latin Amer­i­can lead­ers.

“There’s noth­ing in­ten­tional about the tim­ing. It’s not a slap in the face,” he told re­porters.

But even among Cuban Amer­i­cans here, some were dis­mayed.

“We need com­mu­ni­ca­tion,” said Arsen­cio Acevedo, 48, who has lived in Mi­ami for nearly 30 years. “It is com­mu­ni­ca­tion that helps us all con­nect. Cut that off, and you cut off ev­ery­thing.”

Joe Raedle Getty Im­ages

Joe Raedle Getty Im­ages

PRES­I­DENT TRUMP called Pres­i­dent Obama’s his­toric over­tures a “ter­ri­ble and mis­guided deal.” Rules on Amer­i­can travel to Cuba will be tight­ened.

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