Republicans divided as Trump reverses some Obama Cuba policy

Trump to revise parts of Obama's Cuba policy

Trump to revise parts of Obama's Cuba policy

The new policy bans most USA business transactions with the Armed Forces Business Enterprises Group, a Cuban conglomerate involved in all sectors of the economy.

Even as Trump predicted a quick end to Cuban President Raul Castro's regime, he challenged Cuba to negotiate better agreements for Americans, Cubans and those whose identities lie somewhere in between.

"We will take concrete steps to ensure investments flow directly to the people", rather than the Castro regime or military, Trump said in his speech Friday. "Effective immediately, I am cancelling the last government's one-sided deal with Cuba". He said Trump's policy may put USA national security at risk as strategic competitors move to fill the vacuum the uncoupling could create.

One of the major changes in the policy directive is that USA travelers making educational people-to-people trips can no longer go to Cuba individually but must travel in groups accompanied by a company representative.

Trump issued a blistering denunciation of Cuba's communist government on Friday.

Trump will announce his new approach early Friday afternoon at the Manuel Artime Theater in Miami's Little Havana, the heart of America's largest Cuban-American community, whose support aides believe helped him win Florida in the election. Trump's vow to keep the broader decades-old United States economic embargo on Cuba firmly in place drew criticism from some U.S. farmers, especially growers of corn, soybeans and rice. Other dissidents agree repression has worsened but say rolling back the detente, which will hurt ordinary Cubans, is not the solution.

The venue is named after a leader of the failed US-backed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961 against Fidel Castro's revolutionary government.

"The government of Cuba denounces the new measures toughening the embargo", according to a statement read on Cuban state television.

However, despite the rhetoric, the order appears to be less far-reaching than the President claimed, for example, the embassies that opened in Havana and Washington will be maintained, Cuban Americans will be allowed to send money to their families and visit them, and USA companies will be allowed to continue commercial transportation, including flights between the two countries.

Reversing policy is bad for Cubans, Human Rights Watch said in a statement, "and insisting on human rights progress as a precondition to a new policy is unlikely to bring about change".

Although the policy changes announced were limited, Trump tightened rules for Americans traveling to Cuba, banned ties with a military-run tourism firm and reaffirmed the existing U.S. trade embargo. Trump's aides said the aim was to close off a path for Americans seeking beach vacations in a country where United States tourism is still officially banned.

"More travel, more communications access, and more dialogue with Cuba are the way forward for human rights in Cuba", Amnesty International wrote in a blog post, adding that Obama's trip to Cuba last year opened the door to "scrutiny and transparency" of human rights on the island for the first time in almost 10 years. Refusing to negotiate domestic reforms in exchange for US concessions is perhaps the most fundamental plank of Cuba's policy toward the U.S.

Obama announced in December 2014 that he and Castro were restoring ties.

Some 285,000 people visited the Caribbean country in 2016, up 74 per cent over 2015, with Americans the third-biggest group after Canadians and Cuban expats.

Cuba's state Business Administration Group (GAESA) manages some 50 hotels, chains of shops, construction, communications and distribution firms and the major port of Mariel west of Havana.

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