Published: Sun, June 18, 2017
World News | By Carolyn Briggs

New Trump Policy on Havana Regretful - Moscow

When President Donald Trump traveled to Saudi Arabia last month, he danced with a sword and sipped coffee with the king, but made no mention of the country's political oppression or routine beheadings.

Reversing the policy of pursuing a historic detente, Trump said, "Effective immediately, I am cancelling the last administration's completely one-sided deal with Cuba".

A pro President Donald Trump supporter chants slogans, Friday, June 1, 2017, in Miami.

US tourists are still entitled to visit Cuba under the 12 designated categories of travel authorised by the US Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control.

During a speech Friday in Miami, Trump portrayed his updated policy as the fulfilment of a campaign promise to reverse Obama's diplomatic rapprochement with Cuba after decades of estrangement.

Yesterday, the US President unveiled plans to switch up predecessor Barack Obama's Cuba policy.

He clamped down on some commerce and travel, but left intact many new avenues former U.S. president Barack Obama had opened.

The Cuban government responded Friday evening by rejecting what it called Trump's "hostile rhetoric".

Still, Cuba said it is willing to continue "respectful dialogue" with the USA on topics of mutual interest.

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

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Although diplomatic relations, restored only two years ago, will remain intact, Trump tightened rules for Americans travelling to Cuba, banned ties with a military-run tourism firm and reaffirmed the existing U.S. trade embargo.

"All the Trump administration is saying is, 'there's one thing we're going to change, and that is we're no longer going to permit individual travelers to purport to be traveling to Cuba under the education exemption, '" said Harry Clark, a partner at Orrick and chair of the law firm's worldwide trade and compliance group.

In a statement read out on the evening news, the Communist government said Trump was resorting to "coercive methods of the past" that hurt the Cuban people and prevented economic development but would not weaken the revolution.

The move is created to target the repressive elements of the Cuban regime over human rights concerns and not the Cuban people, said officials, who briefed reporters ahead of the announcement on the condition they not be named. In practice, however, many recent changes to boost ties to Cuba will stay as they are.

The Cuban government is rejecting what it calls the "hostile rhetoric" of President Donald Trump's speech announcing a new USA policy toward the island, but says it is willing to continue "respectful dialogue" with the US on topics of mutual interest.

"The government of Cuba denounces the new measures toughening the embargo" imposed since 1962, according to the statement.

Cuba regretted "a reversal in relations between the two countries", the statement said.

Senior White House officials say that Trump will not close the newly re-opened U.S. Embassy in Havana. The "wet foot, dry foot" policy, which once let most Cuban migrants stay if they made it to US soil but was terminated under Obama, will remain terminated.

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.

"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. And the US government will police other trips to ensure travelers are pursuing a "full-time schedule of educational exchange activities".

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