President Donald J. Trump announced a change to U.S. Cuba policy in a speech in Miami on Friday, criticizing his predecessors policy toward the communist country.
“I am canceling the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba,” Trump said.
“They made a deal with a government that spread violence and instability in the region,” said Trump, adding that the Obama administration got nothing in return.
“We just didn’t fight hard enough, but now, those days are over,” Trump said. “We now hold the cards. The previous administration’s easing of restrictions of travel and trade does not help the Cuban people. They only enrich the Cuban regime.”
The new policy aims to force compliance with U.S. laws that govern the standing embargo of Cuba, especially the ban on tourism.
It will also attempt to hold the Cuban regime accountable for its human rights abuses, and lay the groundwork for greater economic and political liberty for the Cuban people.
Central to the new policy is an effort to channel money flowing from the United States into Cuba away from the Cuban military monopoly, Grupo de Administración Empresarial (GAESA).
GAESA dominates the Cuban economy, including most travel-related transactions.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration wants to see money and investment flow directly to the Cuban people, and see American individuals and entities to develop economic ties to the private, small business sector in Cuba.
“The new policy 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,” reads a statement from the White House.
Obama’s revision to the U.S.-Cuba policy eased travel restrictions in a way that sidestepped the statutory ban on United States tourism to Cuba.
Under the new policy, travel for nonacademic educational purposes will be limited to group travel and self-directed, individual travel will be prohibited.
Cuban-Americans, however, will be able to continue to visit their families in Cuba.
Senior officials in the White House have said that if Cuba wishes any change in the current embargo, the country must pursue reforms to end political and religious repression.
The new policy directs the Treasury and Commerce departments to issue new regulations, a process that may take several months.
The current Obama administration policies will be in effect until then.