USA takes steps to make it harder for Americans to visit Cuba

President Donald Trump signed a memorandum vowing to crack down on travel to Cuba in June when he appeared in a theater in Miami's Little Havana to thank Cuban American supporters

Travel to Cuba gets much harder Thursday under new Trump rules

Embassies in Washington and Havana stay open.

The Cuban military is deeply enmeshed in much of the island's economy, including the tourism industry. They include tools and equipment to build or renovate privately owned buildings.

The new rules "are meant to steer economic activities away from the Cuban military, intelligence and security services ... and encourage the government to move toward greater economic freedom" for the Cuban people, according to a senior administration official, one of several authorized by the White House to brief reporters on the changes on condition of anonymity. Collin Laverty, president of Cuba Educational Travel, called the policy "out of touch" with both Cuban and American interests. The policies take effect Thursday.

Business contracts and travel arrangements already in place will be allowed to go ahead and will not be subject to the restrictions, officials told reporters.

Travelers need to be able to show a "full-time schedule" with activities that support Cuban people and show "meaningful interaction", going beyond merely staying in rooms in private homes, eating in private restaurants, or shopping in private stores, a USA official told reporters on a conference call. "Restrictions on trade and travel are hammering Cuba's private sector, which has grown through interaction with US travelers and USA companies, and put the USA on the sidelines, politically and economically, at a time of transition in Cuba".

There was no immediate response to the new regulations from the Cuban government.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., a vocal advocate of improved U.S.

"The hypocrisy of the White House ideologues is glaring".

The rules come amid deep strains in the U.S. -Cuba relationship stemming from invisible, unexplained attacks that have harmed more than two dozen U.S. government personnel in Havana since 2016.

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The regulations permit continuance of airline and cruise travel and existing business relationships.

Some exceptions will accommodate Americans who already plan to visit Cuba.

Trump, who said during his campaign that he would "terminate" the Obama normalization if Cuba would not cut a "better deal" with the United States, announced during a June speech in Miami's Little Havana that changes would be made.

Any entity on that list, will now not be allowed to engage in financial transactions with Americans and visa versa.

It's unclear how aggressively the US will police the new rules. "But what we wanted to say is, that alone is not enough", the official said.

The Cuban hotels listed included those run by military-linked chains Gaviota and Habaguanex.

It also targets a new cargo port and special trade zone outside the city of Mariel that has been the focus of Cuba's efforts to draw foreign investment in manufacturing and distribution.

The overall impact on American business with Cuba will likely be limited.

In total, more than 80 hotels, 10 stores, 5 marinas and 2 tourist agencies in Cuba are restricted.

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