Trump's new Cuba policy restricts tourism, military business

President Trump will announce increased restrictions toward Cuba on Friday after a nearly five month review of U.S. policy toward the island nation, delivering on a campaign promise he made to crack down on the communist regime.

Trump's new policy is aimed at tightening travel rules and stemming funds directed toward the Cuban military but he won’t be fully reversing diplomatic and commercial ties with the country.

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The president will also unveil a series of "very specific benchmarks" in a speech in Miami on Friday that Cuban President Raul Castro needs to meet in order to negotiate with the U.S., according to White House officials on Thursday. These expectations will include releasing political prisoners, free elections, and direct pay to Cuban workers. 

Trump is expected to leave the U.S. embassy in Havana and will not bring back the "wet foot, dry foot" policy that allowed Cuban migrants who made it to the U.S. to stay in the country, a policy Obama eliminated in the final days of his presidency.

Among the new restrictions likely to impact Americans, Trump will prohibit individual educational trips to Cuba.

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 U.S. policy.

Since Obama’s historic effort in his second term to normalize relations with Cuba, Americans have been allowed to travel to the island nation under 12 different categories of travel with just a general license.

Tourism to the island is still strictly prohibited, but White House officials said that enforcement of the ban has been lagging.

Trump’s new directive “will include ending the individual, people-to-people travel” sub-category, senior officials told reporters. “There are 12 categories of travel that are permitted still, but the individual people-to-people travel is one that has the highest risk of potential abuse," according to one official.

Commercial flights, which resumed for the first time in 50 years last summer, will still continue between the U.S. and Cuba. And Americans can still self-certify under a general license that they are traveling to Cuba for legitimate reasons. White House officials also noted that Americans can still bring Cuban cigars back from their trip.

But travelers could see stepped up enforcement when they return to the U.S. They are required to maintain full schedules and keep detailed logs while in Cuba – something that is rarely checked. Senior officials warned that travelers, however, may be “subject to audit.”

Additionally, Trump's new prohibition on financial transactions with entities tied to Cuba's military could effectively curtail some travel to Cuba as well as business there, because the military controls a large portion of the economy. 

The White House says the new rules will still allow business to business engagement. “But we’ll make sure those profits will not benefit the Cuban military,” said a senior official.

“We also very much want to see that kind of expansion of commercial interaction with Cuba,” the official said. “That’s entirely up to Raul Castro to make that happen.”