President Trump on Wednesday announced a series of new sanctions against Cuba that prohibit Americans from importing Cuban cigars and rum and staying in hotels funded by the Cuban government.
The new restrictions follow a series of measures announced by the Trump administration in 2019 that aimed to curtail travel to Cuba from the United States, including a ban on cruise ships, private yachts, fishing vessels and group educational and cultural trips.
The Treasury Department said on Wednesday that United States citizens will also be restricted from attending or organizing conferences in Cuba and participating in public performances, clinics, workshops, competitions and exhibitions on the island.
“Today, as part of our continuing fight against communist oppression, I am announcing that the Treasury Department will prohibit U.S. travelers from staying at properties owned by the Cuban government,” Mr. Trump said at a White House event honoring Bay of Pigs veterans. “We’re also further restricting the importation of Cuban alcohol and Cuban tobacco.”
“These actions will ensure that U.S. dollars do not fund the Cuban regime and go directly to the Cuban people,” he added.
While the sanctions are designed to apply pressure on the Cuban government to cut its support for the embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, the announcement on Wednesday appeared to be an attempt to appeal to Cuban-American voters in Florida, a battleground state in the 2020 presidential race.
“This is a desperate and hypocritical attempt by Trump to pander to Cuban-American voters in Florida,” Enrique Gutierrez, a spokesman for the Democratic Party said in an email. “American citizens are already banned from traveling to Cuba because of the coronavirus.” Mr. Gutierrez said that Mr. Trump was “using our foreign policy for his own political gain.”
Cuba is currently closed to foreign travelers because of the coronavirus pandemic, but when it opens, American citizens will be banned from lodging at 433 hotels funded by the Cuban government or “certain well-connected insiders,” the State Department said, urging travelers to instead stay in private accommodations, or “casas particulares,” owned and operated by “legitimately independent entrepreneurs.”
“The Cuban regime has been redirecting revenue from authorized U.S. travel for its own benefit, often at the expense of the Cuban people,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement on Wednesday. “This Administration is committed to denying Cuba’s oppressive regime access to revenues used to fund their malign activities, both at home and abroad.”
A Cuban embassy official in Washington told Reuters that the application of sanctions against Cuba has not achieved the proposed objectives in 60 years. “It is a wrong policy that is widely rejected by American society and even among Cuban Americans,” the official said.
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