Cuba rejects new US policy, saying pressure will not work

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez

Human Rights Watch warned, however, that ordinary Cubans - the people that Trump said his move sought to help - would suffer as a result of last week's decision.

The measures announced by President Trump run counter to the majority support of the U.S. public opinion, including the Cuban emigration in that country, to the total lifting of the blockade and the establishment of normal relations between Cuba and the United States.

As for the real effects of policy, Mr Rodriguez said that he will need to wait for Mr Trump's measures to be implemented before he can completely assess their impacts. No easing of USA sanctions on Cuba, he said, "until all political prisoners are freed, freedoms of assembly and expression are respected, all political parties are legalized, and free and internationally supervised elections are scheduled". The "wet foot, dry foot" policy, which once let most Cuban migrants stay if they made it to USA soil but was terminated under Obama, will remain terminated.

The measures announced impose additional obstacles to the already very limited opportunities that the U.S. business sector had in order to trade with and invest in Cuba. "Many U.S. companies have started to invest in and do business with Cuba in view of the huge potential of Cuban tourism, which other countries will surely continue to benefit from".

"This policy was clearly written by people who have never been to Cuba, at least not in this century", James Williams, head of Engage Cuba, a group that lobbies for closer Cuba ties, said in a statement.

Trump was joined on the trip by vocal critics of Obama's attempt to resume more normal relations with the communist nation.

Fellow Florida Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart also lauded Trump for keeping a campaign promise.

The foreign minister said that it was "outrageous" that during Trump's announcement of the new policies he was accompanied by known terrorists and former Central Intelligence Agency agents working against Cuba.

If conservative anti-Castro Republicans hailed President Trump's decision to reverse some of the rapprochement with Cuba initiated by former President Barack Obama, others - particularly in rural areas - called the policy a misguided and isolationist one. After his remarks, Trump signed an order directing the Treasury Department to make the changes. Under the expected changes, the US will ban American financial transactions with the dozens of enterprises run by the military-linked corporation GAESA, which operates dozens of hotels, tour buses, restaurants and other facilities. Grupo de Administracion Empresarial SA, known as GAESA, a state-run, military-affiliated conglomerate, owns nearly all of the retail chains in Cuba and 57 of the mainly foreign-run hotels on the island. Obama's détente has already lifted exports and raised hopes for more gains, which they said were now in doubt. United States air carriers and cruise ships will still be allowed to serve on the island.

Carnival Corp. said its experience in Cuba this past year "has been extremely positive". Can people still travel to the country?

The three said nothing will change in Cuba until GAESA loosens its grip on the economy. On one hand, banking transactions and fees would be exempted, which means American can still rent private properties through Airbnb, for instance. Last week, the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly to back new sanctions on Russian Federation.

Trump's new policy, outlined broadly in a speech Friday, would stop individual Americans from traveling to Cuba under the so-called people-to-people exemption and ban business that directly benefits the Cuban military. This sentiment is not only evident in public opinion polls, but also in the fact that the number of Americans visiting Cuba is growing exponentially, with over 600,000 Americans visiting it in 2016. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who helped craft the new regulations, said at Friday's event with Trump.

Grandfather Provisions for Pre-Existing Commitments - OFAC FAQs indicate that the forthcoming regulations will be prospective and thus will not affect travel arrangements or commercial engagements in place prior to the issuance of the new regulations. Tourism to Cuba is still technically banned by the United States, but there are 12 categories of permitted travel.

The Obama administration relaxed requirements that educational groups travel with a guide from a US organization sponsoring the trip. They urged him to ease barriers with Havana that will boost trade and create jobs in both countries.

The changes are "modest" Pedro Freyre, chairman of law firm Akerman LLP's global practice and an adjunct professor at Columbia Law School, said in a phone interview.

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