losangelesnewstoday.com March 22, 2018

Cubans brace for worst as Trump takes aim at Obama opening

16 June 2017, 06:14 | Violet Powell

Cubans brace for worst as Trump takes aim at Obama opening

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Donald Trump is expected to announce a shift in his administration's relationship with Cuba tomorrow and tighten restrictions on travel and trade that were loosened under Barack Obama, a congressional source told NPR.

President Trump will make good on a campaign promise to Cuban-American hardliners on Friday when he will reverse much of the Obama administration's liberalization of relations with the Communist country.

According to reports by one USA official who had seen the president's memorandum on the issue, the rollback will include a tightening of travel restricitons on US citizens travelling to the island and a restriction on USA business dealings with companies tied to Cuba's military.

But on Friday, President Trump, citing human rights violations, will sign and executive order in Miami on the new policy.

Trump plans to preserve some of the policy changes made by Obama.

John Kavulich, president of the independent US-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, warned that nearly all US business in Cuba would be shut down if Trump imposed a ban on dealings with Gaesa, the economic wing of the country's military government that controls 60% of the island's economy, including state-owned hotels, restaurants, banks and gas stations.

"Anything that restricts these type of engagements from happening is going to hurt civil society in Cuba and in the US and our ability to truly understand what's going on on the ground", said Engage Cuba President James Williams on a conference call Wednesday. In particular, it looks like Trump will impose new restrictions on travel, as well as limits on US companies doing business in the island.

"I realise this trip might no longer be possible for those like me, but it's not about our selfish interest to travel, it's more about the opportunity we've opened", said Ferrer, 21, who visited in May on a trip organised by Discover Cuba, the travel wing of Roots of Hope, a Miami-based advocacy group linking young Cuban Americans with Cubans on the island. The rules also require a daylong schedule of activities created to expose the travelers to ordinary Cubans.

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The report said that changing the course of the process with Cuba would cost 6.6 billion dollars and more than 12,000 jobs to the US economy in sectors like hotel and tourism, agriculture, manufacture and trade, among others. The U.S. could use further dismantling of the embargo as leverage for Cuba's progress in implementing economic reforms that the Cuban government has tentatively endorsed, settling property claims, releasing political prisoners, or returning fugitives. Cuban-American Republicans derided Obama's 2014 policy as a capitulation, The Miami Herald reports in "Trump recasts Cuba policy, takes harder line than Obama on military, travel". But as soon as new regulations are drafted by the Treasury and Commerce Departments, they're likely to pour cold water on the burgeoning Cuban travel business.

Gary Prevost, a professor emeritus at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University, talked about what that would mean for Cuba and for the U.S. Supporters expressed appreciation for Trump's emphasis on human rights in Cuba. It spent subsequent decades trying to either overthrow the Cuban government or isolate the island, including toughening an economic embargo first imposed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

So why would Trump want to revive the failed policies of the past? Even among Cuban-Americans in South Florida, almost two-thirds want to lift the USA embargo. Marco Rubio of Florida, Democratic Sen.

The son of a Cuban immigrant, Rubio opposed Obama's re-engagement with Cuba, saying Obama was making concessions to an "odious regime".

Nonetheless, Tillerson said, "We think we have achieved very little in terms of changing the behavior of the regime in Cuba and its treatment of people, and it has little incentive today to change that".

Flights and cruise ships from the United States will not be restricted. Cuba's authoritarian one-party system remains largely unchanged, and dissidents say government repression has increased over the past two years.

If travel to Cuba is reduced, "You'd have a lot of people whose income would fall dramatically", she said. The theater is named for an exile leader of the Bay of Pigs veterans' association that endorsed Trump last October.

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