United States imposes new travel restrictions on Cuba

Photo courtesy of CNN

WASHINGTON– The US announced major new restrictions on US citizens traveling to Cuba on Tuesday, blocking the most common way Americans are able to visit the island — through organized tour groups that license US citizens to travel automatically.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement that the restrictions are a result of Cuba continuing “to play a destabilizing role in the Western Hemisphere, providing a communist foothold in the region and propping up US adversaries in places like Venezuela and Nicaragua by fomenting instability, undermining the rule of law, and suppressing democratic processes.”

“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 US dollars out of the hands of Cuban military, intelligence, and security services,” the statement continued.

The Trump administration announced plans to further restrict travel to Cuba in April, when White House national security adviser John Bolton said the Treasury Department would “implement further regulatory changes to restrict non-family travel to Cuba.”

The new restrictions will prohibit cruise ship passengers whose trips are arranged as organized tours. It’s unclear how the new restrictions will impact US airlines flying newly established routes to the island.

Cuban government statistics say US citizens have quickly grown to become the second largest foreign group visiting the island after Canadians.

The Treasury Department in a statement clarified that “certain group people-to-people educational travel that previously was authorized will continue to be authorized where the traveler had already completed at least one travel-related transaction (such as purchasing a flight or reserving accommodation) prior to June 5, 2019.”

The Trump administration recently allowed US companies and Cuban-Americans to sue companies using property that was seized after the 1959 Cuban revolution, including cruise ship terminals and airports.

Carnival Cruise Line was the first company to be sued under the law, Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, which previous administrations had waived.

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