During a speech on Friday night in Miami's Little Havana, the epicentre of a Cuban exile community that supported him in the election, Trump said he was keeping a campaign promise to roll back the policy of engagement started by former President Barack Obama in 2014, which he said had empowered the communist government in Cuba and enriched the country's repressive military, reports The New York Times. Under current rules, Americans may not travel to and spend money in Cuba as tourists, but may visit only for commercial, educational, cultural or other such purposes. Travel by Americans to Cuba will still be possible, but with new restrictions that require USA travelers do business with individual Cubans and not their military.
Trump said his administration will expose the crimes of the Castro regime and stand with the Cuban people in their struggle for freedom.
Under the President's executive order, the Trump administration will begin strictly enforcing the exemptions that allow travel between the United States and Cuba and prohibit commerce with Cuban businesses owned by the military and intelligence services. But it makes some exceptions, including for air and sea travel, according to U.S. officials.
Commercial flights and cruise liners will still be allowed to ferry Americans to the island nation 90 miles south of Florida, but passengers will face the threat of a Treasury audit if they do not have a government-approved reason to be there. "We do not want USA dollars to prop up a military monopoly that exploits and abuses the citizens of Cuba", Trump said, pledging that United States sanctions would not be lifted until Cuba frees political prisoners and holds free elections.
At the most recent United Nations vote against the illegal blockade, 191 countries demanded it be lifted, with no votes against and only the USA and Israel abstaining.
But Trump did not completely rescind Obama's policies toward Cuba.
"More travel, more communications access, and more dialogue with Cuba are the way forward for human rights in Cuba", Amnesty International wrote in a blog post, adding that Obama's trip to Cuba last year opened the door to "scrutiny and transparency" of human rights on the island for the first time in almost 10 years.
Trump, however, stopped short of breaking diplomatic relations restored in 2015 after more than five decades of hostilities.
Rhodes also called out Florida politicians "who will go down in history having embraced Trump and hurt Cubans", pointing to an Associated Press report that Trump's posturing had pleased US opponents in Cuba.
The White House told the Post that the shift wasn't meant to "disrupt existing transactions that have [already] occurred", and a Trump Hotels spokesperson emphasized that it is "not doing any deals internationally".
Still, it will be the latest attempt by Trump to overturn parts of Obama's presidential legacy.
"Those concessions have allowed the Cuban military, which controls upwards of 50-60 percent of their economy, to enrich itself and to tighten its grip through a monopoly that they control".
In its statement, the Cuban government said tightening the blockade would not help the USA aim of "debilitating the revolution or forcing the submission of the Cuban people", who have resisted the U.S. onslaught for six decades.
Reversing policy is bad for Cubans, Human Rights Watch said in a statement, "and insisting on human rights progress as a precondition to a new policy is unlikely to bring about change". The Cuban government, which has made clear it will not be pressured into reforms, had no immediate comment.
"They're going to benefit from us going and we're going to benefit from learning their culture", Persaud said.
Trump delivered remarks on his policy and hinted to his long-terms goals for U.S. Washington had severed diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961, two years after communist rebels led by Fidel Castro toppled the right-wing government of Fulgencio Batista. Russian Federation stands against embargoes, blockades and sanctions against that country and stresses unshakable solidarity with the island, the statement reads.
Cuba functioned as a virtual US colony for much of the 20th century, and even reform-minded Cubans are highly sensitive to perceived USA infringements on national sovereignty.
U.S. citizens will not be able to plan their own private trips to Cuba and their incorporation into educational excursions will be subject to strict rules and possible audits by the Treasury Department. "His speech was aggressive and threatening, ... revealing his contempt and ignorance", President Nicolas Maduro said in a speech. Still, Cuba said it is willing to continue "respectful dialogue" with on topics of mutual interest. "It is an offence against Latin America". "The American people should be able to exercise their fundamental right to travel without political interference from the federal government". But the Republican leadership in Congress has long blocked such a move, and it appears unlikely to budge.
The changes won't go into effect until new documents laying out details are issued.