MIAMI – US President Donald Trump said on Friday that he was revoking predecessor Barack Obama’s executive orders loosening restrictions on travel and investment in Cuba.
“I am canceling the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba,” Trump told a largely Cuban-American audience in Miami, vowing to “seek a much better deal for the Cuban people and for the United States of America.”
At the same time, the president said that the US Embassy in Havana would remain open.
The former Cold War enemies in December 2014 announced the start of the process of normalizing relations and culminated the initial stage of their bilateral thaw by upgrading their respective interests sections to embassies in July 2015.
Among other things, the thaw included steps by Obama’s White House to make it easier for American citizens to travel to and do business with Cuba – though a ban on visits purely for tourism remained in place – and the removal of the island from the State Sponsor of Terrorism list.
But Trump on Friday followed through on promises during the campaign to roll back several of those changes.
“We will not lift sanctions until all political prisoners are freed, freedoms of expression are respected, all political parties are legalized and internationally recognized free elections are held,” Trump said, adding that his administration would be willing to return to the negotiating table once Cuba has taken concrete steps to reform its system.
Trump said he was confident that a new generation of leaders would emerge to implement those changes in Cuba, noting that President Raul Castro, 86, has announced that he will step down after his second term ends in February 2018.
“We will very strongly restrict American dollars flowing to the military, security and intelligence services that are the core of the Castro regime ... (and) take concrete steps to ensure that investments flow directly to the people so they can open private business and begin to build their country’s great, great future,” Trump said.
The White House said in a fact sheet that the new policy would channel economic activities away from the “Cuban military monopoly,” the Armed Forces Business Enterprises Group, and “makes clear that the primary obstacle to the Cuban people’s prosperity and economic freedom is the Cuban military’s practice of controlling virtually every profitable sector of the economy.”
It said greater restrictions would be placed on travel, although US commercial flights and cruise-ship trips to the island will not be affected.
The Trump administration said the new policy will allow “American individuals and entities to develop economic ties to the private, small-business sector” on the Communist-ruled island.
The policy also will ban the “self-directed, individual travel permitted by the Obama administration” but will allow Cuban-Americans to continue to visit their family members in the Caribbean nation and send them remittances.
The policy also reaffirms the 55-year-old US economic embargo on Cuba, which only Congress can lift.
The US Treasury and Commerce Departments have been directed to begin the process of issuing new regulations within 30 days, according to the fact sheet, which said the process of finalizing the new regulations could take several months.