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White House announces new travel and trade restrictions on Cuba

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Travel to Cuba gets much harder Thursday under new Trump rules

"08 de noviembre de 2017, 12:57Washington, Nov 8 (Prensa Latina) The government of the United States today announced more restrictions to USA citizens interested in doing business with Cuba and traveling to the Caribbean island, by virtue of a presidential memorandum that reverses major aspects of the two countries" rapprochement. The list features 180 entities, including 83 hotels and 10 Havana boutiques.

New rules are coming out Wednesday that put in place President Donald Trump's partial rollback of the Obama administration's diplomatic opening with Cuba.

The changes take effect Thursday.

Effective Thursday, Americans who want to travel to Cuba will have to go with an organized tour group run by a US company, and a representative of the company must accompany the travelers.

The announcement of the restrictions was made at a time when several economic, academic and business sectors in the United States are interested in expanding their ties with Cuba and when surveys show that most USA citizens favor an end to the blockade.

The new rules "are meant to steer economic activities away from the Cuban military, intelligence and security services ... and encourage the government to move toward greater economic freedom" for the Cuban people, according to a senior administration official, one of several authorized by the White House to brief reporters on the changes on condition of anonymity.

US tourists look at products inside the Cuban private design store Clandestina in Havana, Cuba, October 23, 2017.

Asked why the hotel was left off, the first official said, simply, "we assess how listing hotels would affect the Cuban people and whether doing so advances the interests of the United States".

Much as Obama used his regulatory authority to loosen restrictions within an ongoing USA economic embargo on Cuba, Trump has now changed those regulations to re-tighten them.

The new rules stress that US commerce should concentrate on private sector businesses in Cuba, and not those with government ties.

Collin Laverty, who organizes educational travel to the island, said that "at a time that President Trump is meeting with Communist leaders in China and Vietnam, these regulations show the absolute hypocrisy and political pandering of the Trump administration in Cuba". Although the new blacklist is created to impact the Cuban military, the Trump administration has not commented on whether the restrictions are related to the "health attacks" that USA government officials experienced in the Havana embassy.

In a statement, the group Engage Cuba - which advocates for an end to the United States embargo on Cuba - said the regulations "create a more convoluted, confusing and counterproductive approach to Cuba policy". Wednesday his administration released its new Cuba regulations - and ironically, private Cuban entrepreneurs may get hit worst.

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