HAVANA, Cuba, Sunday November 12, 2017 – Americans travelling to the Spanish-speaking Caribbean island of Cuba will have to stay away from certain hotels and other businesses. And they’ll also no longer be able to travel to Cuba on individual people-to-people exchange programmes unless they are sponsored by an organization.
Those are among some of the travel restrictions that took effect from last Thursday, as President Donald Trump began a roll-back of some of the measures in what he has described as his predecessor’s bad deal with Cuba.
The US State Department has released a list of 180 entities that Americans must now stay away from, because of alleged ties to the Cuban military, intelligence or security services. They include famous hotels in Havana like Hotel Ambos Mundos and Hotel Armadores de Santander, as well as the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski which opened earlier this year as Cuba’s first real luxury hotel; stores in Old Havana; marinas; tour companies; and even rum producers.
“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 Mnuchin said in a statement.
Travel plans made prior to June 16 are exempt from the rules.
Penalties for breaking the sanctions include heavy fines and, after multiple violations, prosecution.
Of course, the restrictions aren’t sitting well with the Cuban government.
Josefina Vidal, chief of US affairs for the island’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, questioned the validity of the “arbitrary” list of restricted businesses.
She said the new regulations represented a “regress of bilateral relations” that will hurt the Cuban people, US citizens who cannot freely travel, and US businesses interested in dealing with Cuba.
The stricter rules mark a return to the tougher US stance toward Cuba that existed before former President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro restored diplomatic relations in 2015.