Trump administration bans cruises to Cuba in clampdown on US travel

Latest bid to pressure country over its support for Venezuela president Nicolas Maduro

The tightening of the decades-old US embargo on the Caribbean’s largest island will further wound its crippled economy as well as hurt US travel companies File Photograph: Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters

The tightening of the decades-old US embargo on the Caribbean’s largest island will further wound its crippled economy as well as hurt US travel companies File Photograph: Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters

 

The Trump administration on Tuesday imposed heavy new restrictions on travel to Cuba by US citizens, including a ban on cruises, in a bid to further pressure the communist island over its support for Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro.

The tightening of the decades-old US embargo on the Caribbean’s largest island will further wound its crippled economy as well as hurt US travel companies that had built up business with Cuba during a brief 2014-2016 detente under former President Barack Obama.

The US state department said the United States would no longer allow so-called group people-to-people educational travel, one of the most popular exemptions to the overall ban on US tourism to Cuba.

The United States will also no longer permit visits to Cuba via passenger and recreational vessels, including cruise ships and yachts, as well as private and corporate aircraft, it said.

Latin America

The administration of US president Donald Trump had announced the new restrictions in April as part of its battle against socialism in Latin America.

It also last month allowed US citizens to bring lawsuits against foreign companies for the use of property confiscated after Cuba’s 1959 revolution, hurting investment in the island.

“The administration has advanced the President’s Cuba policy by ending “veiled tourism” to Cuba and imposing restrictions on vessels,” said a tweet from Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton, who has led the US campaign against what he has called the “troika of tyranny” of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

“We will continue to take actions to restrict the Cuban regime’s access to US dollars.”

Cuba’s foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez said on Twitter the move was “an attack on International Law” and the embargo was the main obstacle to the country’s development, thereby violating Cubans’ human rights.

Travel boom

US travel to Cuba had boomed in recent years after Obama loosened restrictions, allowing the re-establishment of regular commercial flights and cruise services.

The United States became the second-largest source of travellers to the island after Canada, with a majority arriving on cruise ships.

According to the Cuban government, 257,500 US citizens, not including those of Cuban origin, visited Cuba from January through March, with 55 per cent arriving on cruise ships.

“He thinks we are just coming here as a tourist but you are learning so much. It’s ridiculous we won’t be able to come anymore,” said Cheryl Kolar (68) a retired nurse who had travelled to Havana by cruise ship.

“Cuba is the only country we are not allowed to go to. We can go to Russia, but for some reason Trump has something against Cuba.” – Reuters