After months of blustery rhetoric and half measures, the White House is finally taking steps to undo another one of former President Barack Obama’s legacy-defining foreign-policy accomplishments.
The Washington Post reports that, in a landmark ruling, the Trump administration is reversing some of Obama detente with Cuba by cracking down on travel and business with the island.
Under the new rules, most individual visits to Cuba will no longer be allowed, and U.S. citizens will again have to travel as part of a licensed group, accompanied by a group representative. Americans will also be barred from staying at a long list of hotels and from patronizing restaurants, stores and other enterprises that the State Department has determined are owned by or benefit members of the Cuban government, specifically its security services.
Administration officials said that the new regulations, which go into effect Thursday, would not affect travel arrangements already made or contracts already signed, which are to be grandfathered in under existing law.
Trump was extremely critical of Obama’s Cuba policy during the campaign, but after taking office did relatively little to restrict the newly opened lines of trade and tourism opened up by Obama, who made it much easier for US tourists to visit the island, so long as they could justify the trip under a list of criteria issued by the Obama State Department.
Trump railed against Cuba during a speech he gave back in May, sparking speculation that he would threaten to punish Cuba unless it returns US fugitives like Assata Shakur, who received political asylum on the island after being convicted of killing a New Jersey state trooper and escaping from a US prison.
Trump was spurred to act over the summer after US media reported on a series of mysterious cyberattacks that targeted more than 20 US diplomats stationed in Havana, including an unusually large number of spies.
Trump expelled most of Cuba’s Washington-based diplomats, and recalled two-thirds of US personnel from Havana after blaming Cuba for not doing more to prevent the attacks, though the US has said there’s no evidence to suggest the attacks were orchestrated by the Cuban government.
But now that it seems like Trump is getting serious, expect more restrictions to follow as Trump follows through with other promises like barring US companies American from making deals with the Cuban military, which controls much of the state-run tourism industry.