USA tightens restrictions on travel to Cuba

President Donald Trump signed a memorandum vowing to crack down on travel to Cuba in June when he appeared in a theater in Miami's Little Havana to thank Cuban American supporters

President Donald Trump signed a memorandum vowing to crack down on travel to Cuba in June when he appeared in a theater in Miami's Little Havana to thank Cuban American supporters

The US administration has published a series of measures increasing limits on Americans' dealings with Cuba. Americans are banned from doing business with them - making travel even more complicated.

The State Department has also published a list of 180 entities including hotels, stores, rum makers, marinas and a economic development zone at the Port of Mariel, which are believed to financially benefit the Cuban military, intelligence and security services and which USA citizens will no longer be permitted to frequent.

The move comes after Trump in June ordered tighter restrictions against Cuba even as he left in place numerous changes former President Barack Obama made as part of his 2014 diplomatic breakthrough between the two former Cold War foes.

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.

USA tourists look at products inside the Cuban private design store Clandestina in Havana, Cuba, October 23, 2017. Before Obama's opening, travel by many Americans was similarly restricted to such organized trips.

The State Department has said those actions were in response to severe health problems experienced by two dozen American diplomats in Cuba, which it said were the result of unspecified "attacks" on USA personnel.

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The changes, which affect business, travel, and trade between both countries, is meant to "channel economic activity away" from the Cuban government while supporting the island nation's private and small business sector.

The new rules were criticized as too lax by Republican leaders who favor a hard line, but as counterproductive by those who agreed with Obama's rationale for the detente: that Washington's many decades of isolating the Caribbean island failed to force change.

"The hypocrisy of the White House ideologues is glaring", Leahy said in a statement.

Any entity on that list, will now not be allowed to engage in financial transactions with Americans and visa versa. 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.

The head of an educational travel company said there were still many legal avenues - as well as commercial flights, cruise ships, USA -owned hotels, and tour providers - to enable Americans to visit Cuba. Individual travel for a personal nature - what the administration calls "people-to-people, nonacademic" travel - is no longer permitted, senior administration officials said Wednesday. But he said the new restrictions would hurt Cuba's private sector, at a time when the economy is already struggling.

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