Diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba just got a bit colder.
Tighter restrictions on Cuban travel and trade went into effect on Thursday--one day after the Trump administration announced that it would reverse Obama-era changes that attempted two normalize relations between two countries unable to cooperate following the Cold War. According to the Treasury Department's fact sheet, the new rules would implement stricter regulations on most travel and trade.
"We have strengthened our Cuba policies to channel economic activity away from the Cuban military and to encourage the government to move toward greater political and economic freedom for the Cuban people," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnunchin said Wednesday.
Ana Quintana, the Latin America policy analyst at Heritage, described the revised restrictions as a step in moving the U.S. "to an era to where we are abiding to our statutory regulations in U.S. law."
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According to the new regulations, the president no longer authorizes "individual people-to-people non academic education travel." That means those interested in visiting the communist island will have to prove they're traveling for academic and/or humanitarian-related issues. Group travel will still be permitted, but it must be subjected to U.S. jurisdiction. That means visits must be organized by vetted American companies and/or representatives subjected to U.S. jurisdiction.
The biggest change, however, is the State Department's recent blacklisting of roughly 180 institutions, including various restaurants, shops and hotels. By prohibiting Americans from purchasing goods and services from these entities, U.S. officials claim that they're cutting off cash flow supporting the Castro regime.
"There’s been a list created of entities that's banned for U.S. companies to do businesses with because they’re controlled and operated by the military, as well as new requirements for traveling to Cuba."
Though policy has certainly changed, it still allows American businesses to operate within the country, as well as outside its borders. Cruise ship visits and direct commercial flights, for example, will still be permuted. Embassies in Havana and Washington will also remain open.
The implementation of the new rules, which were formally adopted on Thursday, follow months of anticipation after the 45th commander-in-chief acknowledged in a June speech that he was initiating the formal process of rolling back Obama's foreign policy decisions in Latin America.
Since President Obama announced the lifting of a decades-long embargo in December 2014, nearly 300,000 Americans traveled to Cuba. Western companies, like Google and Comcast also saw advantages in operating in Cuba and expanded WiFi and broadband capabilities to the Cuban people.
Quintana acknowledged the seemingly contradictory nature of the Trump administration's sanctioning of a corrupt government based on its human rights record, but also said they American foreign policy isn't exactly "cookie cutter."
"It should never be this overwhelming , human rights should be the way forward, in every country. Not at all. I think when it comes to Saudi Arabia there's a greater national security interest at stake, and, unfortunately, at times the U.S. has to take a step back and can't advocate for the human rights it should rightfully, and the principles it stands for. I think when it comes to Cuba though, Cuba's not a nuclear-armed power. Cuba isn't an economic powerhouse like China. In Cuba, we can put human rights forward because that's one of the most dangerous and vulnerable places that we can expose the regime for what they truly are doing to their people."
But not all agree with the shift in US-Cuba relations. Josefina Vidal, director general of the Cuban Foreign Ministry, said that the reversal won't change anything, because it never proved successful in the past.
"This is the old speech. So, 'let's sanction Cuba, let's impose new measures on Cuba to provoke changes in Cuba, to force, to pressure, to put pressure on the Cuban government to make changes.' Has it happened in the past? Never ever, so it hasn't worked.