Updated: Jun 14, 2019
President Donald J. Trump’s administration in US has ended a nearly two-decade-old program that had become the most popular way for the Americans to legally visit Cuba, banning all the trips via cruise ships and other recreational vessels in the process.
These changes regarding the new restrictions, followed the administrative decision to cut down preferential trades with India, the changes are intended to further squeeze the Cuban economy while keeping the U.S dollars out of the hands of the communist government. It goes into the effect from 5th June.
This administration has made a tactical decision to reverse the slackening of sanctions and other restrictions on the Cuban establishment. These actions would certainly help to keep U.S. dollars out of the hands of Cuban military, intelligence, and security services, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said all these in a statement of his.
Mnuchin, who joined Trump on his first state visit to the United Kingdom this week, added that Cuba, with a population of less than 12 million people continued to play a undermining role in the Western Hemisphere, providing a communist grip in the region and supporting up U.S. adversaries in places like Venezuela and Nicaragua.
U.S. law bars travel to Cuba for tourist activities but Americans have been allowed to go there under 12 authorized categories, including individual and group people-to-people travel — a subcategory of the education provision that permitted visits to the socialist country for the cultural and educational purposes.
The prolonged definition of these types of tour groups was first recognized under the rulings of President Bill Clinton. It was later restricted by President George W. Bush during his first term of ruling and then again it was loosened considerably under President Barack Obama in 2011.
In 2014, the Obama administration went further ahead, after re-establishing political relations with Cuba. Two years later, he went on to reduce the licensing and paperwork requirements for tour operators, cruise lines and commercial air travel to the Caribbean island. Since then, more than 2 Million passengers have traveled to the Republic of Cuba boarding upon more than 13,479 flights, U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council reported, quoting statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation. And the Associated Press reported that, cruise travel has recently become the most popular form of U.S. leisure travel to the islands, bringing more than 100 thousand people in the first four months of the year, accounting for more than 300% increase over the same period last year.
Apparently, commercial flights would still continue to be permitted and travelling for university groups, academic research, journalism and professional meetings would be allowed.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement that, Cuba remains communist, and the United States, under the previous administration, has already made too many concessions to one of the historically most aggressive adversaries.
Ross added that the administration is acting upon limiting the commercial activity that provides revenue for the Cuban regime. Holding other countries responsible remains a focus for this Administration and they would remain vigilant in future too.
Norwegian Cruise Lines responded to the announcements made from the White House in an emailed statement saying, the company is intimately monitoring these recent developments and would also monitor any resulting impact which would occur to the cruise travel to Cuba. They would communicate to the guests and travel partners as additional information becomes available.
Collin Laverty, who runs an organization called Cuba Educational Travel, expects that the new restrictions would definitely hurt the budding Cuban businesses.
It is very clear that Americans are getting off the beaten track, Laverty, who was speaking about tourists who arrive via cruise ships, said that, the tourists are eating at private restaurants, eventually are taking private taxis also, staying at bed and breakfasts and are really empowering the Cuban people.
He acknowledged that the Cuban government ultimately would be benefitted from such transactions, and so do millions of Cuban households. And they are the ones who are going to suffer from these changes.
According to the State Department, those with travel plans in-hand would be counted in. And other categories allowing travel are still available, including faith-group trips, humanitarian projects and the nebulous support of the Cuban people.