So much for those cute pins of 1950s cars and the Havana apartment you saved on AirBnb — President Trump is following through on his promise to renew restrictions on travel to Cuba. Individual people-to-people travel is off the table, according to a new document released by the State Department.
That’s because Trump, who has praised Saudi Arabian, Russian, and North Korean leadership, feels that travel to Cuba is too beneficial to the Castro regime.
Ironically, the Trump administration is specifically cracking down on a type of travel intended to promote the sort of cultural exchange meant to promote increased understanding between Cuba and the United States. People-to-people travel isn’t tourism per se, and you won’t find a lot of opportunities to hit the golf club on a people-to-people trip. Instead, it’s intended by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to be an opportunity for Americans to immerse themselves in Cuban life and culture, while also allowing Cubans to become more familiar with Americans.
The reasoning, according to Trump and his GOP supporters, is to protect the Cuban people from abuses by their own government. “The profits from investment and tourism flow directly to the military. The regime takes the money and owns the industry. The outcome of the last administration’s executive action has only been more repression and a move to crush the peaceful, democratic movement,” Trump said in a Miami speech on Friday.
Florida representative Mario Diaz-Balart echoed Trump’s position explaining to CNBC that “U.S. policy will ensure that the Cuban military — which oppresses the Cuban people and it beats the Cuban people through its thugs and imprisons political activists and spies on its neighbors — they can no longer benefit from increased trade and travel.”
If you already purchased a plane ticket, you can go ahead and reserve a hotel room and carry on. The Treasury Department has stated that “announced changes do not take effect until OFAC issues new regulations.” And if you have completed “at least one travel-related transaction,” like making reservations, before today you’re in the clear. You can also still travel to Cuba for the old “12 categories of authorized travel” but you do have to get clearance. Education and religious groups are still safe too.
If you were dreaming of finally seeing Cuba for yourself, just remember that the administration has really emphasized that they don’t mean to be “negatively impacting Americans for arranging lawful travel to Cuba” or “negatively impacting American businesses for engaging in lawful commercial opportunities.” But ending people to people travel will inevitably have a constricting effect.