The Cuba Trump Restrictions Announcement and the Future of Legal US Travel Under the Trump Retrenchment

As leaders leave the world stage in the US and prepare to do so in Cuba, new leaders take over and make their mark on the US/Cuba tack in relations. On June 15, 2017 the US President made what is being characterized as the Cuba Trump restrictions announcement in fiery speech to select few Cuban exiles in Miami while equal or greater numbers of anti-retrenchment protesters were kept outside. Though the language and tone of the speech was aggressive the actual policy mandate is a rare example from the Trump Administration of moderation and compromise.

It's important to note that no changes will take effect until the US Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) finishes its policy review.

Just the Facts

  • Trump’s speech started a 30-day countdown to the beginning of an OFAC policy review of US/Cuba relations.
  • The review will result in a blacklist of Cuban entities with whom US citizens and businesses no longer spend money.
  • No deadline was provided for when the review must be completed.
  • Exceptions will be made for airports and marinas and for the transportation companies that operate in them.
  • When OFAC releases the results of their policy review, Americans will no longer be allowed to travel as individuals under the ‘Educational Travel: People to People’ general license.
  • Exceptions will be made for people who booked any portion of their travel services prior to June 15, 2017 and businesses who have contracts signed prior to the release of OFAC’s policy review.

Americans will still be allowed to participate in this type of travel to Cuba but will have to go with a US travel agency.

Our Opinion

Trump presents himself as fulfilling two campaign promises here:

1) ‘make a better deal’ for the US with the Cuban government

2) undo as many of Obama’s executive orders as possible

He took two steps back to pander to an aging and shrinking demographic of hardcore anti-Castro Cubans (and their champions in Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz) and is trying to re-brand relations as Retrenchment.

But, he is riding hard against public, political, and professional opinion. Recent polling suggests that as much as 75% of the American public favored Obama’s changes in US policy towards Cuba. Additionally, just before his speech, a bi-partisan group of 55 senators sent Trump a letter expressing their desire to continue normalizing relations and business leaders, governors (with the exception of Florida’s Rick Scott) and port authorities are all in favor of increased freedoms in doing business with the island.

So, even though his speech was filled with fiery rhetoric and photo opportunities his retrenchment is small and the bar he set for Cuba, low. He gave four conditions that the Cuban government should meet before he will continue progress towards normal relations:

  • Hold democratic elections.
  • Free political prisoners and allow Cubans more freedom of political speech.
  • Move more of the Cuban economy into the private sector.
  • Agree to the extradition of people convicted of crimes in the US.

Want to receive future updates on the Cuba Trump restrictions announcement?Subscribe to our Newsletter below.

Trump retrenched only slightly and set the bar low.

Trump hates criticism. He does not like to be seen as ineffectual, especially in the light of the failures of his travel bans and Obamacare repeal. He is also sensitive to media criticism and has been painted as pandering to strong men on the world stage – Russia’s Putin, Duterte of the Philippines, Turkish President Erdogan, Kim in Korea – and thinks he needs a ‘strong man’ to treat toughly.

But, Trump is a businessman and believes in the transactional value of politics. The same desire to be seen getting things done will lead him to look for wins, especially leading up to the 2018 midterm congressional elections and, with bipartisan support, lowering the Cuban Embargo could be huge. It’s possible that the Cuba Trump restrictions announcement is a positioning setup move for later political gain.

Our tours are still and always will be legal. Book your trip today!