U.S. restricts travel, remittances to Cuba as part of a new policy under Trump

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National security advisor discusses Venezuela, Russia and Cuba relations, and the alleged attacks on U.S. personnel in Cuba

White House National Security Advisor John Bolton talks to el Nuevo Herald’s Nora Gámez Torres on Latin American policy at the National Historic Landmark Miami Freedom Tower on Nov. 1, 2018.

White House National Security Advisor John Bolton talks to el Nuevo Herald’s Nora Gámez Torres on Latin American policy at the National Historic Landmark Miami Freedom Tower on Nov. 1, 2018.

The Trump administration is tightening restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba, reversing the engagement policies of the Obama era while increasing pressure on the island’s government in response to its support of the Nicolás Maduro regime in Venezuela.

The changes will be announced during a speech by National Security Advisor John Bolton at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables Wednesday afternoon.

Travel to Cuba will now be limited to family visits, restricting those deemed as “veiled tourism,” said a high-ranking official who spoke on condition of anonymity. That could signal the end of cruises, which started to operate during the Obama years because of an expansion of the categories of travel allowed.

The re-tightened restrictions also could impact air travel because of a reduction of passengers. U.S. laws currently allows only 12 categories of travel, among them educational visits, to promote people-to-people contacts and for professional and research work.

Travel by Cuban Americans to reunite with relatives on the island will remain unchanged and the new limits on remittances will be “generous … because we don’t want to hurt the families,” said a senior administration official who asked to remain anonymous in order to explain the reasons behind the changes. Former President George W. Bush was broadly criticized in 2004 when he restricted those visits to three per year and imposed tight limits on remittances.

The U.S. Treasury Department also will suspend Obama-era authorizations that allowed Cuban companies and banks to perform transactions in third countries that passed indirectly through the U.S. banking system.

In addition, the State Department will add five companies to its list of restricted entities, including Aerogaviota, an airline controlled by Gaviota, a group of tourism-relative companies controlled by the Cuban armed Forces. Those measures — formally announced by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday morning and scheduled to take effect on May 2 — are in addition to the full implementation of the Helms-Burton law, which will allow lawsuits in federal courts seeking compensation for properties confiscated by the Cuban government after 1959.

“It’s a watershed moment,” said U.S. congressman Mario Diaz-Balart in remarks during the luncheon at the Biltmore hotel. Listening in the audience was his brother former congressman Lincoln Díaz-Balart, a fierce proponent of the Helms-Burton Act. “My message to those protesting: if you are not trafficking in stolen property, you have nothing to fear…but it you are, it is going to cost you dearly.”

This is a developing story that will be updated

Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter: @ngameztorres


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