June 23, 2018

Trump Recasts US-Cuba Policy

20 June 2017, 12:54 | Erin Grant

Pic Courtesy PTI

Russia criticises US for 'anti-Cuban' approach says it sides with Cuba

"You could say, 'You could buy a drink anywhere, ' but we want to come to a famous, very nice place", said Russell Francis, 35, a special education teach from Houston, after visiting Sloppy Joe's, which won renown during the 1920s U.S. Prohibition era when American tourists flocked to Havana to drink and gamble to their heart's content.

But the trouble with that hodge-podge of measures is that even if they don't end up doing much economic damage to the Cuban dictatorship, they will give Cuba new ammunition to proclaim itself a victim of "U.S. aggression".

Now, President Donald Trump has announced a roll back on yet another one of Obama's policies. "Broadly speaking, while challenges remain in terms of Cuba's readiness for large volumes of American travelers, the past few years have seen a growth in business for agencies, tour operators, airlines, cruise lines, hotel and other travel companies".

Trump directive calls for an effective ban of individual tourist travel to Cuba, as well as an absolute prohibition on USA companies conducting any business with entities controlled by GAESA, a state-run organization that has strong ties to the Castro family and military regime that operates in a majority of the Cuban economy.

Critics also point to Trump's own businesses, which might have had commercial ties to Cuba before it was legal.

The Russian Foreign Ministry declared that this new approach can only induce regret and that it was clear that anti-Cuba discourse is still needed.

Trump was joined on the trip by vocal critics of Obama's attempt to resume more normal relations with the communist nation. The United States has long argued that people-to-people exchanges are one of the best ways of displaying American values and promoting democratic practices around the globe.

In September 2015, when he was asked about Obama's opening to Cuba, Trump told The Daily Caller, "I think it's fine", while adding that "we should have made a stronger deal". After his remarks, Trump signed an order directing the Treasury Department to make the changes.

Although the president may believe that he has the support of the people on this policy shift, Americans and Cuban-Americans largely support rapprochement with Cuba. The Cuban military controls significant portions of the economy through its Grupo de Administración Empresarial, S.A. (GAESA), including tourism, through its Gaviota and Habaguanex subsidiaries. According to the Pew Research Center, a growing number of Americans (nearly 75% in December 2016) support improved USA relations with Cuba. United States air carriers and cruise ships will still be allowed to serve on the island. The story noted, "Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev has visited Cuba twice since February 2008 while Vladimir Putin visited in July 2014", and Raul Castro traveled to Moscow three times.

Several companies engaged in business in Cuba expressed relief that Trump didn't take more drastic action.

Essentially, the largest USA companies are being shielded from legal liability, with the burden being placed most directly on individual travelers, in a move that can only be seen as an attempt to put a chill on the individual travel market and discourage those who would like to visit the island that is less than 100 miles off the United States mainland. As a result, Americans and Cubans alike, will once again be driven apart by USA laws that are inimical to both our individual rights and our mutual national interests.

Trump will also exempt banking transactions and fees, allowing Americans to continue to rent private properties such as those offered through AirBnB. Remittances to Cuba won't be cut off.

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