In a speech on June 16, President Donald Trump said he is canceling Barack Obama’s “completely one-sided deal with Cuba,” including strengthening restrictions and sanctions on Cuban travel, exports and imports.
The same day, the White House released a memorandum detailing the administration’s policy changes. As stated, these changes include stronger restrictions on travel, exports and imports, as well as increasing efforts to directly support the Cuban and American people.
However, these changes only partially shift from the previous administration’s policy. Newly formed embassies in both countries will continue to run. There will be direct flights and cruises to Cuba; tourists will be allowed to spend an unlimited amount of money and bring back goods they purchased there. Additionally, the economic embargo and agreements to combat drug trafficking and oil spills will remain in effect.
Despite these minimal changes, U.S. citizens will be subjected to tighter restrictions if they decide to travel to Cuba, whether for business or leisure. There are currently 12 classifications for authorized travel which were loosely enforced. The new policy changes will strengthen enforcement, especially the “people to people” category, which acted as a broad way for Americans to enter the country.
Under the new restrictions, travelers would be required to have more strict itineraries under licensed American tourism companies rather than allowing individuals to make their own schedules. These restrictions also include establishments that tourists and business people are not allowed to spend American money at due to the influence of the Cuban military, but these new travel policies will directly harm Cuban businesses.
By only allowing large travel groups, small Cuban inns, private restaurants and private taxis will not be able to serve and house all tourists. These large groups will have to stay in hotels and take buses, both of which are essentially state-run. The Cuban people will actually be the ones suffering under these regulations, not the Cuban government.
This administration claims these regulations are part of an effort to fight against the Cuban government and its tight hold on the Cuban people, but that is highly hypocritical due to the United States’ relationship with countries like Saudi Arabia and Russia.
Both countries have been found guilty of numerous human rights violations, many of which were listed as reasons for the Cuban policy. Among those are punishment of dissidents and journalists, jailing innocent people who are only suspected of crimes or disliked by the country’s regime, and a strict set of laws that govern almost every move a citizen makes.
It is additionally hypocritical to claim we are fighting for a greater good because of the United States’ flaws within our own criminal justice system, racial biases and an emphasis on criminalization and punishment, as the Human Rights Watch points out.
Throughout his campaign, Trump has called into question the credibility of anybody and anything that opposes him, called almost every news outlet fake except for the one that praises him, recited fake polls that favor him, and has been the subject of numerous scandals and lawsuits.
His actions have parallels to those of leaders in the previously named countries, making this gesture futile and hypocritical while indirectly ruining Cuban livelihoods and supporting the very government these regulations are supposed to protest against.