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Tightening Cuban Relations Is Bad Policy and Bad for Democracy

20 June 2017

President Donald Trump on Friday will announce a revised U.S. Cuba policy that eliminates travel for single individuals and bans future U.S. business transactions with Cuba's military, according to senior administration officials.

Hoping to bring democracy back to the communist island, former president Barack Obama in 2014 restored diplomatic ties with Cuba, reversing decades-old policy. Trump's policy also will not reinstate the "wet foot, dry foot" policy, which allowed any Cuban who made it to USA soil to stay and become a legal resident.

Saying that the aim was to fix what Trump has called a "bad deal" struck by Obama with Havana, one USA official said the new administration would leave the door open to improved relations if Cuba undertakes democratic reforms such as allowing free and fair elections and the release of political prisoners.

But how numerous steps President Barack Obama took to thaw our relationship with Cuba could Trump actually undo?

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They watched. almost two years ago, then-U.S. President Barack Obama pursued, and secured, a thaw in relations with its longtime nemesis Cuba and the Castro government.

American tourist travel was never technically speaking legal, and the White House says that they are generally making changes to travel categories so that it will be harder to abuse loopholes to go do things like hang out on Cuban beaches. The trips were made easier by the resumption of scheduled commercial air service from the USA for the first time in decades. The rules will take effect when the Treasury Department has the regulations ready. Marco Rubio and Mario Diaz-Balart, both of whom wanted stiffer sanctions on the Castro government.

"They know exactly what they're doing and what they're trying to do is stop travel to Cuba", said James Williams, president of a lobbying group that advocates for greater engagement with the island. 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.

The administration wants "to see commercial interaction with Cuba".

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When asked how much of a setback the new policy could represent, "not much", says Torrico, adding that because little real progress was made in bilateral ties, especially since Cuba's main demand - that the embargo be lifted - was largely ignored. In this photo, Cubans watch the TV broadcast of the inaugural ceremony of Trump, from Havana, Cuba, Jan. 20, 2017.

Trump will travel on Friday to Miami, where he is set to announce a prohibition on "financial transactions" with military-backed tourism conglomerate GAESA, according to a source close to the deliberations.

The change in the USA posture toward Cuba under Trump marks the latest policy about-face by the president. "We would like the president to cut off any relationship between the American intelligence services and the Cuban intelligence services", he said. Miami is home to the largest Cuban-American community.

Rubio was very vocal about Obama normalizing relations with Cuba and went as far as to block the President's pick for ambassadors who were part of that agenda. Less than a year later, the U.S. Embassy in Havana re-opened.

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Tightening Cuban Relations Is Bad Policy and Bad for Democracy