In its statement, the Trump administration said its new policy "reverses the Obama administration's support for the communist Castro regime and its military apparatus, and instead aligns the United States with the Cuban people". One would think that Trump, who trumpets his business background, would understand that open relations with Cuba - trade, travel, human and cultural exchange - will have far more impact in generating pressure for change than a reversion to the failed embargo. Dozens of US businesses and agricultural interests are operating in Cuba or want to, potentially worth billions of dollars a year.
Rubio, a longtime critic of the Castro regime and of former President Barack Obama's policies thawing US relations with the communist island, gave a broad preview of Trump's "strategic and targeted changes" in a Facebook live post this morning. The Havana U.S embassy will stay open.
At home, Trump's critics have questioned why his administration is now singling out Cuba for its human rights record while insisting that in other parts of the world it will not lecture other countries on the issue.
The overall goal of the policy changes, officials said, is to "steer money away from the Cuban military and toward the Cuban people".
The Obama administration's easing of sanctions allowed approved American hospitality companies such as Starwood to, in effect, rent out rooms, upgrade facilities, hire local workers and conduct business in USA dollars through American banks.
This is the wrong policy in the wrong place at the wrong time - a gift to Cuba's hard-liners, who lost their most convenient weapon of mass distraction when the last administration normalized relations.
Engage Cuba, a group lobbying for an end to the embargo, estimates that 10,000 USA jobs in aviation and the cruise business already depend on Cuba. "We want to empower and we want to strengthen the Cuban people without strengthening the Cuban military, which controls a significant percentage of their economy", Rubio said.
So-called "people to people" trips, which enable American travelers to visit Cuba for educational purposes on their own as opposed to with a tour group, will be eliminated under the new USA policy.
Trump was making the announcement Friday at a Miami theater associated with Cuban exiles who oppose the island's leadership.
Another harsher measure - but one considered less likely to be implemented - would be reverting to regulations requiring USA travelers to seek a special license to travel to Cuba.
Despite Obama's effort to improve ties, the Republican-dominated Congress has refused to lift Washington's 57-year-old embargo against Havana, which makes it illegal for USA corporations to do business with Cuba.
Trump accused Cuba of "cruel despotism" in May, vowing to support its people's hopes for democracy, which raised ironic cheers from rights supporters more used to his cozying up to Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other autocratic states. "I have so many friends from Cuba". Although the citizens of this country will be allowed to make payments of goods and services to the private sector, the new measures would increase the requirements that should be met by those interested in visiting Cuba. In the case of Cuba, greater American interaction with everyday Cubans has meant not just a public diplomacy coup but a meaningful improvement in Cubans' lives.
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