By Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES – Hoping to secure votes in Florida, Donald Trump announced Wednesday even tighter restrictions on Cuba travel for US citizens. The screw continues to be tightened down on what seems like a never-ending number of threads.
“Today, as part of our continuing fight against communist oppression, I am announcing that the Treasury Department will prohibit U.S. travelers from staying at properties owned by the Cuban government,” Trump said at the White House.
“We’re also further restricting the importation of alcohol and Cuban tobacco,” he added. The announcement of hardened sanctions came at a ceremony honoring 1961 Bay of Pigs veterans and commemorating the 40th anniversary of the 1980 Mariel boatlift that brought 120,000 Cubans to Miami, noted Reuters.
Since January 2017, Trump has sought to unwind a detente with Cuba pursued by his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama. Although at the time, Fidel and Raul Castro rejected Obama’s overtures during his visit in March 2016 to Havana.
It’s Still Possible for US Citizens to Visit Cuba but…
The new US Treasury Department restrictions, prohibit US citizens from staying at hotels or properties owned by the Cuban government. Staying in private homes is also of great difficulty with the strict sanitary controls for Covid-19.
Collin Laverty, President of Cuba Educational Travel, noted that the new measures also “remove general licenses for travel to Cuba for the purpose of professional events and conferences as well as public performances, sporting competitions, workshops and the like.”
Laverty said, “there are still ways US citizens can legally travel to Cuba. However, these prohibitions will create more confusion and complications.” The promoter of educational travel and exchange said, “less travel will mean more hardship for Cuban families.”
Those US citizens who do manage to travel to Cuba will have any rum or cigars confiscated upon returning home.
Cubans are already facing numerous economic difficulties including acute shortages of basic food and hygiene products. The government recently dollarized part of the state-controlled retail sales to obtain more hard currency. The move increased the social gap between those with US dollars and the majority with only Cuba pesos.
Stepped-up repression and harassment of independent journalists, artists, political opponents, or simple dissenters is also felt.
Weighing the consequences of the new restrictions, Collin Laverty had this to say. “How long will US politicians kick around the Cuban people for political victories in Florida.” He added, “Six decades of talking tough and tightening the embargo to please Cuban Americans has achieved nothing. The Cuban government is in control and the Cuban people are still facing hardship.”