US tight­ens travel rules to Cuba, black­lists busi­nesses

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

WASH­ING­TON — Amer­i­cans seek­ing to visit Cuba must nav­i­gate a com­pli­cated maze of travel, com­merce and fi­nan­cial re­stric­tions un­veiled Wed­nes­day by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, part of a new pol­icy to fur­ther iso­late the is­land’s com­mu­nist gov­ern­ment.

Now off-lim­its to US cit­i­zens are dozens of Cuban ho­tels, shops, tour com­pa­nies and other busi­nesses in­cluded on a lengthy Amer­i­can black­list of en­ti­ties that have links to Cuba’s mil­i­tary, in­tel­li­gence or se­cu­rity ser­vices. And most Amer­i­cans will once again be re­quired to travel as part of heav­ily reg­u­lated, or­gan­ised tour groups run by US com­pa­nies, rather than voy­ag­ing to Cuba on their own.

The stricter rules mark a re­turn to the tougher US stance to­ward Cuba that ex­isted be­fore for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and Cuban Pres­i­dent Raul Cas­tro re­stored diplo­matic re­la­tions in 2015. They come as Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump tries to show he’s tak­ing ac­tion to pre­vent US dol­lars from help­ing prop up the Cuban gov­ern­ment.

“These mea­sures con­firm there is a se­ri­ous re­ver­sal in bi­lat­eral re­la­tions which has oc­curred as a re­sult of the de­ci­sions taken by the gov­ern­ment of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump,” said Jose­fina Vi­dal, the top Cuban diplo­mat for North Amer­ica.

Still, the pol­icy is only a par­tial roll­back of Obama’s changes. Cruise ship vis­its and di­rect com­mer­cial flights be­tween the coun­tries will still be per­mit­ted. Em­bassies in Wash­ing­ton and Havana stay open.

The rules are de­signed to steer US eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity away from Cuba’s mil­i­tary, in­tel­li­gence and se­cu­rity ser­vices, which dom­i­nate much of the econ­omy through state-con­trolled cor­po­ra­tions. The goal is to en­cour­age fi­nan­cial sup­port for Cuba’s grow­ing pri­vate sec­tor, said se­nior Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials, who briefed re­porters on a con­fer­ence call on con­di­tion they not be quoted by name.

To that end, the Trea­sury De­part­ment said it is ex­pand­ing and sim­pli­fy­ing a li­cense that al­lows some US ex­ports to Cuba de­spite the em­bargo. They in­clude tools and equip­ment to build or ren­o­vate pri­vately owned build­ings.

“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.

Trump an­nounced his new pol­icy in June dur­ing a speech in Mi­ami’s Lit­tle Havana neigh­bour­hood, the cra­dle of Cuban-Amer­i­can re­sis­tance to Cas­tro’s gov­ern­ment. The ad­min­is­tra­tion took sev­eral months to fi­nalise the de­tails of the new rules, which took ef­fect yes­ter­day.

The new pol­icy main­tains sev­eral cat­e­gories of travel to Cuba that are per­mit­ted de­spite the em­bargo, which car­ries on decades af­ter the Cold War’s end. Amer­i­cans can still travel on ed­u­ca­tional and “peo­ple to peo­ple” trips as well as vis­its de­signed to sup­port the Cuban peo­ple by pa­tro­n­is­ing pri­vately owned small busi­nesses that have popped up across the is­land in re­cent years.

But those trav­el­ling to sup­port Cuba’s peo­ple must have a day­long sched­ule of ac­tiv­i­ties de­signed to ex­pose them to Cubans and steer dol­lars to­ward cit­i­zens, such as rent­ing rooms in pri­vate homes. Those on or­gan­ised, “peo­ple to peo­ple” or ed­u­ca­tional vis­its must be ac­com­pa­nied by a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the US-based group or­gan­is­ing the trip.

Vi­dal, the Cuban diplo­mat who was the pub­lic face of Cuba’s open­ing with the United States dur­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, said the pol­icy would harm Cuba’s econ­omy, Amer­i­can cit­i­zens and US busi­nesses. The rules were also quickly de­nounced by travel groups and pro­po­nents of closer US ties to the is­land.

“Cuba is still open for busi­ness,” said Charel van Dam of the Cuba Travel Net­work. “It is still pos­si­ble for peo­ple to travel, but I think these an­nounce­ments will serve mainly as some­thing to scare off peo­ple who want to visit.”

Se­na­tor Pa­trick Leahy, D-Vt, a vo­cal ad­vo­cate of im­proved US-Cuban re­la­tions, noted the an­nounce­ment came as Trump was in China push­ing more US busi­ness en­gage­ment with an­other com­mu­nist-run coun­try. “The hypocrisy of the White House ide­o­logues is glar­ing,” Leahy said.

The rules come amid deep strains in the US-Cuba re­la­tion­ship stem­ming from in­vis­i­ble, un­ex­plained at­tacks that have harmed more than two dozen US gov­ern­ment per­son­nel in Havana since 2016. The at­tacks led the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to or­der most of its diplo­mats to leave Cuba in Septem­ber and is­sue a sweep­ing travel warn­ing urg­ing Amer­i­cans to stay away.

Of­fi­cials in­sisted that the new, tougher rules had no con­nec­tion to the at­tacks. The US first com­plained to Cuba’s gov­ern­ment about the at­tacks in Fe­bru­ary, four months be­fore Trump an­nounced his broader pol­icy in­ten­tions.

Some ex­cep­tions will ac­com­mo­date Amer­i­cans who al­ready plan to visit Cuba. Those who booked “peo­ple to peo­ple” trips be­fore Trump’s June an­nounce­ment will be ex­empt, along with Amer­i­cans who or­gan­ised ed­u­ca­tion trips be­fore the rules start on Thurs­day. Busi­ness deals al­ready reached with en­ti­ties on the pro­hib­ited list will be al­lowed to pro­ceed.

It’s un­clear how ag­gres­sively the US will police the new rules. Of­fi­cials said they would use in­for­ma­tion ob­tained from sev­eral US agen­cies to catch vi­o­la­tors, who could be sub­ject to penal­ties and crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion.

The black­list bars busi­ness with the large mil­i­taryrun cor­po­ra­tions that dom­i­nate the Cuban econ­omy. These in­clude GAESA and CIMEX, hold­ing com­pa­nies that con­trol most re­tail busi­ness on the is­land; Gaviota, the largest tourism com­pany; and Habaguanex, which runs Old Havana.

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.

Black­listed ho­tels in­clude the Man­zana Kempin­ski, which opened with great fan­fare this year as Cuba’s first to meet the in­ter­na­tional five-star stan­dard.

The over­all im­pact on Amer­i­can busi­ness with Cuba will likely be lim­ited. Trade is sparse. Many Amer­i­can trav­ellers al­ready stay at ho­tels not on the no-go list, and the com­pany that im­ports most Amer­i­can food prod­ucts to Cuba is sim­i­larly un­af­fected.

Bring­ing home lim­ited quan­ti­ties of rum and Cuban cigars is still al­lowed, of­fi­cials said—News24.

Work­ers re­move dead man­groves dur­ing the clean-up at the Bodo site in Rivers State, Nige­ria

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Zimbabwe

© PressReader. All rights reserved.