Trump administration bans US travel and cruise ship stops in Cuba

Havana, Cuba. 22nd November 2018. Cruise ship 'Majesty of the Sea' docked in Havana. A classic car drives by on the seafront road.

The Trump administration has imposed major travel restrictions for US citizens visiting Cuba, including bans on cruise ship stops, and educational and recreational visits.

The Associated Press (AP) and PBS reported on Tuesday that the US will no longer allow educational and cultural trips to Cuba, known as “people to people” travel, according to a statement by the US Treasury Department.

The announcement comes in the wake of news that international visitors to the US requiring visas will be forced to disclose their social media account information.

The trips have reportedly been used by thousands of American citizens visiting Cuba since before the restoration of “full diplomatic relations” between the US and the communist government in December 2014.

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According to Cuban government figures, reported by Newsweek, more than 257,000 Americans visited Cuba in the first four months of 2019 – a 93 percent increase from the same time period in 2018 – with 142,000 Americans visiting Cuba through a cruise ship.

Treasury said it would also deny permission for private and corporate aircraft and boats. Commercial airline flights appear to be unaffected, while travel for university groups, academic research, journalism and professional meetings will continue to be allowed, according to AP.

“It kills the people-to-people category, which is the most common way for the average American to travel to Cuba,” Cuba Education Travel founder and president Collin Laverty told AP.

Cuba’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, believes the new restrictions imposed on Cuba are “aimed at suffocating the economy & harming the living standards of Cubans in order to forcefully obtain political concessions.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told AP the measures are a response to Cuba’s “destabilising role” in the Western Hemisphere, including support for the Venezuelan government of President Nicolas Maduro.

“Cuba continues to play a destabilizing role in the Western Hemisphere, providing a communist foothold in the region and propping up U.S. adversaries in places like Venezuela and Nicaragua by fomenting instability, undermining the rule of law, and suppressing democratic processes,” Mnuchin said.

“This administration has made a strategic decision to reverse the loosening of sanctions and other restrictions on the Cuban regime. These actions will help to keep U.S. dollars out of the hands of Cuban military, intelligence, and security services.”

US and Cuban flags side by side in Havana, Cuba.

US and Cuban flags side by side in Havana, Cuba.

The new restrictions were reportedly previewed by national security adviser John Bolton in an April speech in Miami to veterans of the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion but details of the changed were public until Tuesday.

The sanctions reportedly took effect on Wednesday after being published in the Federal Register.

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