The Trump Administration releases new regulations promised by the President to curtail millions flowing to Cuban military and security services. It is a good beginning  but some Cuban government companies have been left out. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen says it is a good first step. Inspire America Foundation  releases poll showing Cuban Americans support for Trump's Cuba's policies. And the Village Voices announces a film in Cuba's Orwellian world in which a woman is asked to spy on a Cuban dissident writer and a romance develops.

White House implements new Cuba policy restricting travel and trade

Trump administration puts in place new Cuba policy

U.S. citizens traveling to and trading with Cuba will be restricted by new rules, announced by the Trump administration on Nov. 8. (The Washington Post)

By Karen DeYoung November 8 at 12:09 PM

The Trump administration announced tight new restrictions Wednesday on American travel and trade with Cuba, implementing policy changes President Trump announced five months ago to reverse Obama administration normalization with the Communist-ruled island.

Under the new rules, most individual visits to Cuba will no longer be allowed, and U.S. citizens will again have to travel as part of groups licensed by the Treasury Department for specific purposes, accompanied by a group representative. Americans also will be barred from staying at a long list of hotels, and from patronizing restaurants, stores and other enterprises that the State Department has determined are owned by or benefit members of the Cuban government, specifically its security services.

The new rules “are intended to steer economic activities away from the Cuban military, intelligence and security services . . . and encourage the government to move toward greater economic freedom” for the Cuban people, said a senior administration official, one of several authorized by the White House to brief reporters on the changes on the condition of anonymity.

[Five things you need to know about Trump’s Cuba policy]

Commercial relations with Cuba are to be similarly restricted to prevent any exchanges with the 180 entities on the State Department’s list.

VIEW GRAPHIC

TIMELINE: Trump’s Cuba policy

Administration officials said the new regulations, which will take effect Thursday, would not affect certain existing transactions. For visitors, that means anyone who has “completed at least one travel-related transaction (such as purchasing a flight or reserving accommodations) prior to” publication of the new regulations in the Federal Register on Thursday.

For businesses, all those who have signed contracts before publication may proceed with them, officials said. That presumably would include both John Deere and Caterpillar, both of which reportedly signed recent distribution contacts with Cuba.

President Barack Obama restored diplomatic ties with Havana in 2015 and issued regulatory changes that allowed increased commercial relations and expanded travel to Cuba.

Trump said during his campaign that he would “terminate” the Obama normalization if Cuba would not cut a “better deal” with the United States. In a policy speech in June in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood, he said that “our policy will seek a much better deal for the Cuban people and for the United States of America. We do not want U.S. dollars to prop up a military monopoly that exploits and abuses the citizens of Cuba.” He ordered the Treasury, commerce and state departments to begin writing the new rules that have now been announced.

Much as Obama used his regulatory authority to loosen restrictions within an ongoing U.S. economic embargo on Cuba, Trump has now changed those regulations to re-tighten them.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), one of several Cuban American lawmakers who opposed the Obama opening, called the new regulations “a step in the right direction,” but said their effectiveness was diminished by allowing existing transactions to be grandfathered in.

The Obama changes were widely supported by U.S. businesses. Engage Cuba, a national business coalition that supports lifting the embargo and expanding trade and travel, called the new regulations a “more convoluted, confusing and counterproductive approach to Cuba policy” that will hurt the Cuban private entrepreneurs it claims to be helping, and abandon U.S. leadership to Russian efforts to regain influence in the hemisphere.

Under new Trump administration rules, most individual visits to Cuba will no longer be allowed. (Adalberto Roque/AFP/Getty Images)

“The great irony of releasing these regulations while President Trump stands in Communist China is dumbfounding, but not surprising,” Engage Cuba President James Williams said in a statement.

U.S. airlines and cruise ships will continue to operate in Cuba under the new regulations.

Although the amount of trade under the Obama changes has not expanded as much as anticipated, a number of U.S. business and agricultural entities have continued to seek contracts in Cuba. While “tourism” to Cuba has remained prohibited under the embargo, American travel to the island under specified categories has nearly tripled, to almost 300,000 last year.

The most significant change under the new regulations is the elimination of the individual “people-to-people” category of educational travel. As before the Obama opening, visitors to Cuba will again have to travel in licensed groups. They are additionally prohibited from staying at many hotels throughout the country that the State Department has said are connected to various holding companies said to be all or partly owned by the security services.

Instead, the new regulations encourage Americans to stay in rooms rented by private citizens, and to eat in private restaurants that have been allowed for a number of years as part of a growing Cuban private sector.

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The prohibited list also includes a number of Cuban ports, and the massive Mariel economic zone, shopping centers and individual stores such as Trasval, Cuba’s equivalent of Home Depot in Havana. Transactions with companies producing Cuba’s most popular soft drinks, such as Tropicola, also are prohibited.

[Two more U.S. officials confirmed injured by mysterious attacks in Cuba]

Administration officials said that all travelers returning to U.S. ports and airports from Cuba would have to maintain proof of their activities in Cuba.

Separately, the administration in recent months has significantly reduced the size of the U.S. Embassy in Havana, suspended issuance of U.S. visas to Cubans there, advised Americans not to travel to the island and expelled 15 Cuban diplomats from Havana’s embassy in Washington.

The State Department has said those actions were in response unspecified “attacks” that have caused health problems affecting two dozen American diplomats in Cuba. Administration officials said Wednesday that those actions were unrelated to the new regulations.

 

PRESS RELEASE

For more information:                                                                                       November 8, 2017

Keith Fernandez, 305-668-5994202-225-8200

Keith.Fernandez@mail.house.gov 

Ros-Lehtinen Responds To Announcement of New Cuba Regulations

(Washington, DC) – Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chairman Emeritus of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs made the following statement today after the announcement of new regulations on doing business with the Castro regime. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:

 “The announcement of the new Cuba regulations is a positive step forward but still leaves much to be desired as many of the dangerous and disastrous regulations put forth during the Obama administration unfortunately remain intact. I welcome the issuance of new regulations on prohibiting doing business with the Castro regime’s military and intelligence services, including its private sector front companies, which continue to use their financial windfall to further oppress the Cuban people. Clamping down on the economic lifelines to the oppressors and their handpicked military leaders will help weaken their hold on the reins of power. 

“The carve outs in the regulations and the acceptance of this false narrative of a Cuban private sector are disappointing. As the administration is examining blocking the sale of planes to Iran, it should have a uniform policy against these rogue regimes. So it is concerning that the new Cuba regulations will allow businesses with existing contractual arrangements to move forward at the expense of the Cuban people and this will only assist the tyrannical regime.       

“Let me be clear: there is no truly independent private sector under a communist dictatorial regime because the regime controls all aspects of society. We also need to resolve the matter of confiscated U.S. property claims that impacts our own U.S. national interests.”

Release: 

2017 Cuban American 

Voter Poll

Inspire America Foundation announces the result of its 2017 Cuban American Registered Voter Poll.  Key findings include:

Cubans in Miami-Dade County Support Trump Administration Sanctions Against Havana, Back Expulsion of Cuban Diplomats from USA, Want to See Cuban Gov't Returned to List of State-Sponsored Terrorists, and Want Cuban Government and Cultural officials to be ineligible for US Visas.  

  • SANCTIONS: By more than 2:1, Cubans support new sanctions against the Cuban government announced by the Trump administration in June 2017. 
  • ACOUSTIC ATTACKS: A plurality, 44%, say that the Trump administration's decision in August 2017 to reduce the number of American diplomats in Havana and to expel Cuban diplomats from the United States was the right response to incidents of hearing loss and possible brain damage. An additional 26% say the decision was not forceful enough. 
  • STATE SPONSOR OF TERROR: By 5:3, Cubans say that the Cuban government should be returned to the list of state-sponsored terrorists. 
  • US VISAS: Overwhelming numbers say that Cubans who have held key positions in the Cuban government, worked for the Cuban police, military or intelligence agencies or committed human rights abuses should not be eligible for US visa or immigration benefits. 
  • CULTURAL EXCHANGE: A majority of Cubans oppose the Cultural Exchange program as it exists today.
  • Miami-Dade Cubans voted 2:1 for Trump on 11/08/16.

The survey was commissioned by Inspire America and conducted by #1 ranked national polling firm, SurveyUSA. No research company of any size scores as highly as SurveyUSA on four key metrics:  

  • how accurate its surveys are; 
  • how much predictive value its surveys have; 
  • how little partisan bias its surveys have; and 
  • how prolific SurveyUSA is. 

These rankings are published by the independent, non-partisan statisticians at 538.com. You can see the ranking here:  

https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/pollster-ratings/

 

THE VILLAGE VOICE/ Film

“Santa & Andrés” Reveals the Power of Small Rebellions in Castro’s Cuba

Two souls find each other in a sunny and familiar dystopia

by SERENA DONADONI

NOVEMBER 7, 2017

Lola Amores and Eduardo Martinez in “Santa & Andrés”BREAKING GLASS PICTURES

The Orwellian image of totalitarianism is bleak and urban, with thought police lurking around every corner. Sunny rural Cuba seems a world away, but in Carlos Lechuga’s delicate drama Santa & Andrés, ideological rigor has seeped into everyday life and relationships are drawn along the party line. Santa (Lola Amores) marches up to the hilltop home of Andrés (Eduardo Martinez) with all the authority of a state official, even though her job is caring for livestock at the collective farm.

She has been sent to watch him while an international conference takes place nearby. The government classifies Andrés as a dangerous dissident writer, but Santa finds a timid, subdued man in his fifties eking out a livelihood from canning fruit. His weathered, barren shack is devoid of books, let alone a typewriter. It’s 1983, and Andrés has seen his peers flee after the revolution or grow old and die in Cuba, unheralded and defeated. Being gay has made him even more of an outcast in a society that maintained conservative mores while adopting radical politics.

With quiet precision, Lechuga (Melaza) charts Andrés’s resilience and Santa’s awakening, using a naturalistic visual style and sparse dialogue that reveals how these characters instinctively read between the lines. When Santa acquires a black-market sundress, the thin, frilly, impractical garment symbolizes a new defiance. Her time with Andrés reveals how much she’s sacrificed without making a fuss. Small rebellions can have major consequences for Santa, but she’s willing to pay the price for a greater awareness of the world beyond her constricted existence.

Santa & Andrés
Directed by Carlos Lechuga
Breaking Glass Pictures
Opens November 10, Cinema Village