Trump scales back Obama-era Cuba policies
Following almost three years of thawing Cuban-American relations, President Donald Trump traveled to Miami to deliver updates on his campaign promise to reverse Barack Obama's historic policy.
Speaking before supporters in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood, Trump denounced the Castro government, bashed his predecessor's moves to normalize relations with the island nation, and said that sanctions against Cuba won't be lifted until all political prisoners are freed and other freedoms are respected.
"The previous administration's easing of restrictions on travel and trade does not help the Cuban people. They only enrich the Cuban regime ... Therefore, effective immediately, I am canceling the last administration's completely one-sided deal with Cuba," Trump said June 16.
Trump is tightening U.S.-Cuba relations, but he is not completely revoking all of Obama's actions. Among things staying in place is the U.S. embassy in Havana.
Obama announced in December 2014 that the United States would begin talks with Cuba on normalizing relations after five decades of distanced communication. The embassy re-opened in August 2015. (We gave Obama a promise Kept for his campaign promise to grant Americans unrestricted rights to visit family and send money to Cuba.)
Trump's policy allows Cuban-Americans to continue to send remittances and visit family in Cuba. But Trump is curtailing Obama's travel expansions.
Self-directed, individual trips will be prohibited, according to a White House fact sheet. Educational trips will be restricted to group travel. Travelers will need to keep records of their financial transactions and may be subject to audits by the Treasury Department.
Trump said he was immediately cancelling Obama's policy, but the White House fact sheet said it may take months for changes to take effect. That's because the Treasury and Commerce Departments need to issue new regulations that align with Trump's goals.
The White House fact sheet outlined four objectives under Trump's policy:
• Enhance compliance with U.S. law, particularly provisions governing the Cuban embargo and ban on tourism;
• Hold the Cuban regime accountable for oppression and human rights abuses;
• Further national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and Cuban people; and,
• Empower Cubans to develop economic and political liberty.
Trump administration officials said that it was a "readjustment" of U.S. policy toward Cuba and did not target the Cuban people, but members of the Cuban military government. Trump is seeking to put restrictions on Cuba "until they provide religious and political freedom to their people," a senior White House official said during a June 15 background briefing.
The Trump administration won't restore the "wet foot, dry foot" immigration policy that Obama eliminated during his last days in office. The policy allowed Cubans who touched U.S. soil to stay in the country. "We will keep in place the safeguards to prevent Cubans from risking their lives to unlawful travel to the United States," Trump said in Miami.
Trump's administration is now tasked with adjusting regulations to align with Trump's policy. In the meantime, we rate this promise In the Works.
Miami Herald, "Trump to reveal Cuba policy in Miami next Friday," June 9, 2017
Miami Herald, "More than 50 senators support eliminating restrictions on travel to Cuba," May 26, 2017
Miami Herald, "How Cuba policy, and its inevitable drama, ensnared Trump's White House," June 1, 2017
Miami Herald, "If Trump reverses the U.S. Cuba policy, airlines and cruise lines could lose $3.5 billion," June 2, 2017
Miami Herald, "Trump recasts Cuba policy, takes harder line than Obama on military, travel," June 15, 2017
Whitehouse.gov, Fact sheet on Cuba policy, June 16, 2017