Trump thrusts US, Cuba back toward hostile relations

In a briefing to reporters, senior White House officials said Trump would announce changes to current Cuban policy that the administration hopes will prevent American dollars from hurting Cubans.

Senior administration officials said in a media briefing Thursday afternoon that President Trump will ban people-to-people travel to Cuba for individual Americans.

According to media reports, Trump is set to announce in Miami on Friday a rollback to the thaw between Washington and Havana, a promise he made during his election campaign previous year.

The new policy will ban most US business transactions with the Armed Forces Business Enterprises Group (GAESA), a sprawling conglomerate involved in all sectors of the economy, but make some exceptions, including for air and sea travel, the officials said. They include: free elections, the release of political prisoners and direct pay for Cuban workers.

Trump is expected to leave the US embassy in Havana and will not bring back the "wet foot, dry foot" policy that allowed Cuban migrants who made it to the stay in the country, a policy Obama eliminated in the final days of his presidency.

Trump's policy will not reinstate wet foot, dry foot, the policy that allowed Cuban immigrants who reached US soil to remain in the country.

Several US media outlets had reported the date and site for the announcement of the result of the review of Washington's Cuba policy that Trump promised when he took office, a policy that to date has included greater rapprochement with the communist island and was initiated by his predecessor Barack Obama.

The Trump directive will try to police travel to Cuba to stop illegal tourism, but, officials said, Americans traveling to Cuba can still bring back cigars.

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Early reports from Washington indicate President Trump is vowing to keep his campaign pledge to anti-Castro hardliners in south Florida.

Officials briefing journalists about the new policy were asked why human rights concerns had led to punitive measures in Cuba's case but were not playing a role in the administration's policy to other notable human rights offenders, like the Philippines and Saudi Arabia. The Cuban government has made clear it will not be pressured into political reforms in exchange for diplomatic engagement.

"It would be exceedingly disappointing to see the progress that has been made in the last two years halted and reversed by the Administration".

Instead, Trump will aim to make it tougher to travel to Cuba and restrict US financial transactions that benefit the communist-ruled regime.

The new limits on US business deals will target the Armed Forces Business Enterprises Group (GAESA), a conglomerate involved in all sectors of the economy, including hotels, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Trump´s new stance would also ban officials from diverse sectors, state agencies, unions, media, lawmakers, officials and judges from having bank accounts in the United States.

"We also very much want to see that kind of expansion of commercial interaction with Cuba", the official said.

The influx in Americans going to see the sights has resulted in the rebirth of cruises and air service from the the island, with nonstop flights available from NY to Havana. Marco Rubio and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart say more sanctions are needed. Miami is home to the largest Cuban-American community.

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