On Friday, President Donald Trump excoriated the Obama administration’s “completely one-sided deal with Cuba” and prompted the White House to announce new restrictions to travel and dealings with the communist island nation.
While Trump claimed he was “canceling” Obama’s entire “deal,” the White House’s actual announcement lays out changes to policy that only partly alter the last administration’s diplomatic position.
Here are 5 things you need to know about Trump’s new Cuba policy:
1. Trump will impose new travel restrictions for Americans looking to vacation in Cuba and roll back the previous president’s flexible allowances. “Obama allowed U.S. visitors to travel to the country under 12 different license categories, including for educational purposes, religious reasons, journalistic activities and family visits. There was also a general license. Tourism was still prohibited, however,” reports The Hill, adding:
Trump is eliminating the so-called people-to-people trips, a sub-category of education that enables Americans to design their own trips and go to Cuba on their own. That method has been one of the more popular ways that U.S. travelers have been seeing the island since Obama announced his changes.
Under Trump’s new restrictions, Americans will only be able to visit Cuba as part of a tour group if they want to go to the island for educational purposes.
The feds are being directed to enforce the new travel restrictions aggressively. If you’re thinking about skirting the rules and traveling to Cuba anyway, be warned, you could end up in serious legal trouble, including civil fines up to $65,000 per violation. Visitors must keep detailed records of their schedules and activities on the island for five years. The Treasury Department’s auditing will be monitored by the Inspector General to make sure all goes to plan and nobody slips through the cracks.
2. Trump will explicitly enforce a ban prohibiting any commercial interactions with Cuban companies owned or affiliated with the the communist regime’s military or intelligence divisions. By clamping down on monetary transactions that may help the Castros, Trump is hoping to isolate and weaken the regime once again.
3. Commercial flights between the United States and Cuba will not be affected by Trump’s new policy. Commercial flights will resume, allowing the seven U.S. airlines that fly nonstop to Cuba to continue their business. However, due to newly imposed travel restrictions, we may expect airlines to pursue less ambitious flight schedules to Cuba in anticipation of less travelers. Obama first opened up commercial travel with Cuba last summer. It was the first time in 50 years that Americans were boarding commercial flights to the long-ostracized island nation just south of Florida.
4. It’s unclear when Trump’s new policy will go into full force. While the Treasury and Commerce departments have 30 days to begin drafting the new codes. After that, the pace at which the administration wants to enact these rules will be self-determined.
If you’re planning on traveling to Cuba anytime soon, don’t worry. Your trip will likely proceed as planned without any serious obstacles.
“That means that travelers who have already scheduled a trip to Cuba can still move ahead with their plans, as long as the new regulations have not taken effect yet,” explains The Hill. “In writing new rules, the Treasury Department is expected to spell out exactly what will happen to people who book trips before the new rules, but travel after their release.”
5. Cuba has pushed back against Trump’s new policy, calling it a “grotesque spectacle.”
“We will never negotiate under pressure or under threat,” said Cuban foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez.
Rodriguez also said his country will refuse to return U.S. fugitives who have sought asylum in Cuba.
“It was a grotesque spectacle straight from the cold war,” stated the foreign minister during a trip to Vienna. “Cuba will make no concessions on its sovereignty and its independence, will not negotiate over its principles and will never accept [imposed] conditions.”