Trump thrusts US, Cuba back toward hostile relations


Trump reportedly cited human-rights violations in Cuba as justification for a new US approach; video continues to circulate on the Internet of a man, at a Havana May Day celebration, who is crushed and carried off by others as he runs with an American flag over his head as other revelers look on.

Trump will end that practice for so called "people to people" travel, which has created a loophole that allows nearly anyone to travel to the island legally senior White House officials said. One official said the difference was that Trump had specifically promised to take action on Cuba to a rally of the Cuban diaspora a year ago in Florida, a state which Trump won. USA firms may no longer do deals with Cuban businesses controlled by the military or security services, considered repressive institutions.

Those categories allowed Americans to travel to Cuba for educational, professional, humanitarian, sporting, artistic or trade purposes, but not for general tourism, but Trump administration officials said the policy was not carefully monitored and was abused to allow tourism. Obama's policy shift was designed in part to improve relations with other Latin American countries that opposed a USA -led embargo against Cuba, in place since 1960. Trump's policy also will not reinstate the "wet foot, dry foot" policy, which allowed any Cuban who made it to USA soil to stay and become a legal resident.

There are divisions within the Trump administration however concerning the extant of the diplomatic rollbacks, especially given that Obama's opening to Washington's former Cold War foe has created opportunities for American companies ranging from telecommunications to airlines.

Regulations allowing US commercial flights and cruise ship to travel to Cuba will not be affected, the officials said.

Yet Trump is unlikely to undo all U.S. The trips were made easier by the resumption of scheduled commercial air service from the USA for the first time in decades. Americans will also still be allowed to bring back unlimited amounts of Cuban products - including rum and cigars - for personal use. Trump cast that as a sign the US still wanted to engage with Cuba in hopes of forging "a much stronger and better path".

An official said that the president was anxious that current policies were enriching the Cuban military. The Cuban government has made clear it will not be pressured into reforms in exchange for further engagement with Washington.

While tourist travel remained officially banned, Obama also allowed a broad category of "people to people" visits to Cuba.

Earlier this week, Patrick Clarke covered the coming announcement with news that the majority of Americans actually support more open travel to Cuba-including 44 percent of Trump voters.

Now, President Trump will likely reverse at least some of that policy. The administration said the policy directs new regulations to be developed. Obama and his aides argued that commerce and travel between the countries, which has blossomed since he relaxed the rules, would make his policy irreversible. He said he would "stand with the Cuban people in their fight against communist oppression", and went on to win about half the Cuban vote in Florida in the presidential election. Marco Rubio are expected to join Trump on Friday.

"The oppressors of the Cuban people are the Cuban government who have increased repression on the island against dissidents ... since reestablishing diplomatic relations".

A White House official said that the policies will "not target Cuban people but oppressive members of the Cuban government". Even among Cuban-Americans in South Florida, almost two-thirds want to lift the US embargo.