WASHINGTON—In a swipe at the communist dictatorship in Cuba, the White House announced on April 17 that the United States is restricting travel and remittances to the country.
Travel will be limited to visiting family, down from the 12 categories that the Obama administration allowed starting in 2015.
The United States is also limiting the amount of remittances that can be sent to Cuba, from the current unlimited amount to $1,000 per person every three months, according to National Security Adviser John Bolton.
In addition, the United States will be prohibiting dollar transactions through third-party financial institutions.
The restrictions are a sharp turn from the Obama administration’s approach, which saw sanctions as a failure and proceeded to seek to normalize relations with the island nation through diplomacy.
In 1961, the United States put an embargo on the sale of U.S. goods to Cuba in an attempt to topple the communist dictatorship.
Under Obama in 2015, the United States proceeded to reopened its embassy in the country for the first time since 1961. But due to unexplained health attacks on workers at the embassy and their families, some of the services at the embassy were moved out of the country.
Today, the original embargo largely remains in place, but some agricultural goods, medical devices, and goods aimed at the small private sector, are allowed to be exported.
The White House said in an April 17 release that the Trump administration is attempting to “hold the Cuban regime accountable” for its human rights abuses and to “reverse previous policies that enriched the regime.”
The State Department has accused Cuba of not only infringing on the civil rights of its own citizens, but helping to prop up Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro, who has overseen massive inflation, shortages of necessities like food and medicine, and an over 3 million-person exodus.
The United States and over 50 other countries have recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the rightful leader of the country and sees Cuba, along with Russia, as standing in the way of a peaceful transfer of power.
In early March, Guaidó’s chief of staff was arrested and his home raided by the police. According to the State Department, Maduro’s Cuban-supported intelligence agency SEBIN is detaining him.
The United States is also adding five entities owned by the Cuban military to a blacklist that prohibits Americans from doing business with them. That list has over 215 entities.
Earlier in the day, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that starting May 1, the United States will allow U.S. citizens to sue people and companies that traffic in goods that were appropriated by the Castro regime during the 1959 communist revolution.
In recognizing Pan American Week, the White House said in an April 15 proclamation that the United States remains committed “to freedom and a strong and interconnected” Western Hemisphere.
“When Venezuela is free, and Cuba is free, and Nicaragua is free, this will become the first free hemisphere in all of human history,” President Donald Trump said in a statement.