USA takes steps to make it harder for Americans to visit Cuba

Reuters

President Donald Trump's administration is imposing new travel and commerce restrictions on Cuba aimed at limiting Americans from doing business with entities connected to Havana's military, intelligence and security services.

The departments of State, Treasury and Commerce announced the adoption of "coordinated actions" to implement the document signed by President Donald Trump on June 16 in Miami, Florida, which includes banning US business people from doing transactions with more than 180 Cuban companies.

"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 Steve Mnuchin said in a statement.

Effective Thursday, Americans who want to travel to Cuba will have to go with an organized tour group run by a US company, and a representative of the company must accompany the travelers.

Much as Obama used his regulatory authority to loosen restrictions within an ongoing USA economic embargo on Cuba, Trump has now changed those regulations to re-tighten them.

Much of the half-century-old U.S. economic embargo against Cuba remains entrenched in law, but under former president Barack Obama federal authorities began to loosen some rules. The blacklist will go into effect Thursday.

The tighter regulations were met with criticism by Senator Patrick Leahy, who said they are "what one would expect of a paranoid totalitarian government, not a democracy like ours".

Further, the department said US companies will not be allowed to invest in the Mariel Special Economic Development Zone - a district being built that the island considers a crucial fixture in its future economy.

The announcement of the restrictions was made at a time when several economic, academic and business sectors in the United States are interested in expanding their ties with Cuba and when surveys show that most USA citizens favor an end to the blockade.

It also establishes that all people-to people non-academic educational trips must be sponsored by an organization under US jurisdiction. The Commerce Department will simplify and expand a license that allows American companies to export certain consumer products to Cuba without asking for special permission from the US government. American tourists typically stay at hotels not included on the Cuba Restricted List, and USA -based flights and cruises are exempted from the regulations. Wednesday his administration released its new Cuba regulations - and ironically, private Cuban entrepreneurs may get hit worst.

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