By: Elaine Kussurelis
On November 8th, the U.S. government announced sanctions that will make it more difficult for Americans to travel to and do business in Cuba. The restrictions, which implement President Trump’s June 2017 policy speech, took effect on November 9th. They are aimed at restricting American tourism and trade practices that benefit the Cuban government, its military, intelligence, or security agencies. The sanctions intend to maintain opportunities for Americans to engage in authorized travel to Cuba and support Cuba’s private, small business sector.
The State Department published a list of 180 government entities believed to be controlled by the Cuban military, intelligence, or security services. Americans are banned from doing business with any of the listed entities, which include hotels, stores, rum makers, and tourism companies. Included on the list of restricted government entities are famous hotels in Old Havana, like the Hotel Ambos Mundos, one of Ernest Hemingway’s favorite haunts.
Americans wishing to travel to Cuba may still make authorized trips to Cuba. However, they must be traveling with a U.S.-based organization and accompanied by a U.S. representative of the group. Some previously authorized travel will still be authorized if the traveler has already completed at least one travel-related transaction, like a flight or reserving accommodation.
The restrictions will also make it harder for Americans seeking to travel to Cuba individually. Travelers must engage in a full-time schedule of activities that support Cuban people. Examples of authorized activities include renting a room in a private residence, shopping at privately owned stores, and eating at privately owned restaurants. However, those activities alone are not enough to meet the requirement of a full-time schedule. Travelers must participate in additional authorized activities that support the Cuban people.
There are currently many legal avenues that allow Americans to travel to Cuba, said the head of an educational travel company. However, he emphasized that the sanctions will hurt Cuba’s private sector, at a time when their economy is already struggling.
The new sanctions come at a time when relations between the U.S. and Cuba are on shaky ground because of recent sonic attacks at the U.S. embassy in Havana. However, officials insist that the new sanctions have no connection to the sonic attacks.