Trump administration enacts new rules limiting trade, travel with Cuba

Travel to Cuba gets much harder Thursday under new Trump rules

The US government has announced new restrictions against Cuba, tightening sanctions as part of President Donald Trump's pledge to roll back his Democratic predecessor's move towards warmer ties with Havana.

In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, administration officials said Americans will be forbidden from engaging in business with 180 entities identified by the State Department as having ties to Cuban military, security or intelligence agencies.

"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 Steven 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 USA company, and a representative of the company must accompany the travelers.

When it comes travel, individual educational travel not linked to an academic entity will no longer be allowed.

Trump, who said during his campaign that he would "terminate" the Obama normalization if Cuba would not cut a "better deal" with the United States, announced during a June speech in Miami's Little Havana that changes would be made.

"These new regulations create a more convoluted, confusing and counterproductive approach to Cuba policy".

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".

In a statement, the group Engage Cuba - which advocates for an end to the USA embargo on Cuba - said the regulations "create a more convoluted, confusing and counterproductive approach to Cuba policy".

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.

However, you can travel with an organization that is under US laws. 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 USA government.

Some of those listed on the restricted list include Havana's new 5-star hotel called The Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski. Administration officials said Wednesday that those actions were unrelated to the new regulations.

The administration's policy change comes 20 months after Obama became the first sitting USA president in almost a century to visit the island - part of numerous efforts his administration made to thaw relations between the United States and Cuba.

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