American citizens looking to travel to Cuba may rethink their vacation choice, thanks to a list of travel restrictions and sanctions announced Wednesday by the Trump administration.
In addition, Americans seeking to evade the general ban on travel to Cuba will only be allowed to do so on educational trips organized by a USA firm and with a guide.
Under new regulations that take effect Thursday, Americans must avoid frequenting a long list of businesses, including hotels, stores, tourist agencies and marinas the Trump administration said are controlled by or act on behalf of Cuban security services.
The new rules "are meant to steer economic activities away from the Cuban military, intelligence and security services ... and encourage the government to move toward greater economic freedom" for the Cuban people, according to a senior administration official, one of several authorized by the White House to brief reporters on the changes on condition of anonymity.
The changes, detailed Wednesday, aim to negate much of former President Barack Obama's large-scale efforts to normalize diplomacy with the Caribbean island nation after more than a half-century of icy relations. "Restrictions on trade and travel are hammering Cuba's private sector, which has grown through interaction with USA travelers and US companies, and put the USA on the sidelines, politically and economically, at a time of transition in Cuba".
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USA tourists look at products inside the Cuban private design store Clandestina in Havana, Cuba, October 23, 2017.
Travelers need to be able to show a "full-time schedule" with activities that support Cuban people and show "meaningful interaction", going beyond merely staying in rooms in private homes, eating in private restaurants, or shopping in private stores, a USA official told reporters on a conference call.
The new policy changes will be posted to the Federal Register.
In a statement, the group Engage Cuba - which advocates for an end to the U.S. embargo on Cuba - said the regulations "create a more convoluted, confusing and counterproductive approach to Cuba policy".
"The hypocrisy of the White House ideologues is glaring", Leahy said in a statement.
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Trump's rollback of Obama's opening has not affected a centrepiece of the detente, the restoration of diplomatic ties and the opening of embassies in Havana and Washington.
Americans wanting to visit Cuba will have to go as part of organized tour groups run by USA companies.
Groups that advocate for greater engagement with Cuba were dismayed by the administration's announcement, arguing that the new rules would only serve to harm the island's burgeoning private sector economy.
When it comes travel, individual educational travel not linked to an academic entity will no longer be allowed.
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