Trump partially reverses previous administration’s Cuba policy

US President Donald Trump has signed into law a partial reversal of Barack Obama’s Cuba policy. Shipowners’ Club said that a closer look at the new policy, signed into law last Friday, revealed that the changes themselves were in many ways not as tough as Trump’s speech in Miami the same week; “they represent only a limited reversal of President Obama’s moves towards a thawing of relations with Cuba”, the Club said.

One key change related to Obama’s policy permitting US citizens to visit Cuba under 12 broadly defined categories, including sports interests, cultural tours, and “people to people” visits as an independent (individual) traveller for educational purposes.

Trump’s revised policy seeks to more stringently enforce the statutory ban on US tourism to Cuba. Travel for non-academic educational purposes would be limited to group travel. The individual “people to people” category will be more tightly enforced The new policy seeks evidence that US travellers are visiting as part of a group/tour, “and not just lying on a beach,” according to one White House official.

Shipowners’ said that the second key category of the new policy sought to prevent US persons from having business dealings with the military.

A White House fact sheet (link at bottom) said that the new policy channelled economic activities away from the Cuban military monopoly, Grupo de Administración Empresarial (GAESA), including most travel-related transactions, “while allowing American individuals and entities to develop economic ties to the private, small business sector in Cuba”.

The announced changes would not take effect until Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) issued new regulations.

Meanwhile, Carnival Corporation has confirmed that its ships could still sail from the US to Cuba, despite the travel policy changes. Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Paradise will be the largest cruise ship in history to sail from the US to Cuba Currently, two of Carnival Corporation’s brands – Carnival Cruise Line and Holland America Line – and its social impact travel brand Fathom have been approved for travel to Cuba. Carnival said that, authorized under current US-to-Cuba travel guidelines, all the itineraries complied with US Department of Treasury rules that allowed licenced travel companies to transport approved tourists to Cuba to engage in activities that supported the Cuban people.