As President Donald Trump is expected to announce a reversal on the U.S. Cuba policy on Friday, June 16, 2017, Cubans are bracing for the worst.
The officials argued that the new policy will fulfill a campaign promise and reverse Obama-era policies that the Trump administration argues have appeased and "enriched" the Cuban military regime.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said earlier this week at a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Trump wants to allow business activity and trade with Cuba to continue as much as possible because he appreciates the benefits that this opening provides for the Cuban people. Either way, Trump hopes his measures will prod Cuba to improve human rights - and redirect more USA money to private Cuban businesses.
These measures should significantly reduce the amount of money flowing into the coffers of the Cuban regime. Marco Rubio and Mario Diaz-Balart, both of whom wanted stiffer sanctions on the Castro government.
The main policy driver, according to a senior White House official, was "concern [current policy] was enriching" the Cuban government and its intelligence services. The embargo remains in place and unchanged by Trump's policy. But as soon as new regulations are drafted by the Treasury and Commerce Departments, they're likely to pour cold water on the burgeoning Cuban travel business.
Sources have said the president is not planning to close the newly re-opened USA embassy in Havana, reimplement limits on US based money transfers or change family travel policies.
The changes won't go into effect until regulations are issued.
Trump aides said Thursday that Rubio was "very helpful" to the administration as it spent months reviewing the policy.
Polls suggest most Americans support the liberalized policy towards Cuba pushed by the Obama administration.
"The United States prospers by engaging with the world", they wrote. He re-established diplomatic relations with Havana in 2015 and loosened some restrictions on doing business in the country. An expert on Cuban travel told Politico that roughly 60 percent of all businesses in Cuba and 80 percent of all hotels on the island are run by the business arm of the country's military, meaning that even if you can find an exemption for traveling to Cuba, you might not be able to find anywhere to stay.
Among the conditions that would have to be met in order to further Trump administration negotiations are the holding of free and fair elections, as well as the freeing of political prisoners in Cuba, the administration officials said. They believe that the more contact Cubans and Americans have and the more opportunities Cubans have to form entrepreneurial ventures - helped by Americans - the more pressure there will be for the political system to change on the island.
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