Eight Things You Need to Know about President Trump's New Cuba Policy
07/13/2017 09:20 am ET
William M. LeoGrande
Professor of Government at American University
President Donald J. Trump signs the National Security Presidential
Memorandum on Strengthening the Policy of the United States Toward Cuba,
Miami, June 16, 2017
On June 16, 2017, President Donald Trump announced his new Cuba policy
in a speech in Miami, declaring that he was "canceling" President Barack
Obama's opening to Havana. Here are eight things you need to know about
what Trump did—and didn't –do.
(1) National Security Presidential Memorandum on Cuba (NSPM)
During President Trump's appearance in Miami, he signed a new National
Security Presidential Memorandum on Cuba which formalized elements of
his new policy and replaced President Obama's Presidential Directive on
Cuba signed in October 2016. Obama's directive laid out the rationale
for a policy of engagement with Cuba and directed executive branch
agencies to work toward its implementation. Rescinding it has no
immediate practical effect, but signals that President Trump is no
longer interested in a policy of normalization—something that was also
clear from the confrontational tone of his Miami speech.
(2) Travel Opportunities
One of the main policy changes President Trump announced was tightening
restricts on travel to Cuba and stepping up enforcement to be sure that
travelers are going for a legally approved purpose. There are 12
categories of legal travel to Cuba, but the most popular one for
non-Cuban Americans is "people-to-people" educational travel, offered by
cruise ships and travel providers like National Geographic and Classic
Journeys. President Obama legalized individual people-to-people trips,
which meant travelers could go on their own and pursue a personalized
itinerary. President Trump canceled that. Now, to go on a
people-to-people trip, you'll have to go in an organized group led by a
licensed traveler provider, and follow a set itinerary. But you can
still bring back rum and cigars.
(3) Transactions Benefiting the Cuban Military
The other major policy change President Trump announced was a ban on any
direct transactions with entities that would benefit the Cuban military
disproportionately. The terms "direct" and "disproportionate" haven't
been defined yet. That will happen when the Treasury Department issues
the implementing regulations. This could get complicated, because a lot
of enterprises in the tourism sector, including hotels, restaurants,
tourist taxis, rental cars, and retail stores are controlled by the
Cuban armed forces ministry. The State Department will produce a list of
prohibited enterprises, which should clarify who you can do business
with in Cuba and who you can't. The good news: ports, airports, and
telecommunications are exempt from the new regulations, so cruise ships,
airlines, and Google are all safe. Existing contracts are exempt, too.
At first glance, Trump's National Security Presidential Memorandum
(NSPM) seems to say that remittances will be unaffected, but another
section of the NSPM expands the definition of "prohibited government
officials" of Cuba from a few dozen people to hundreds of thousands.
That's important because under existing regulations, Americans cannot
send remittances to any Cuban who is a prohibited person. We'll just
have to wait and see how the Treasury Department sorts that out when it
writes the regulations.
(5) Diplomatic Relations
Despite a very tough speech in Miami that denounced the Cuban
government, President Trump did not break diplomatic relations with
Havana. The United States and Cuba restored diplomatic relations on July
20, 2015. President Obama nominated career foreign service officer
Jeffrey DeLaurentis, who was already serving in Havana as chief of the
U.S. embassy, as ambassador, but he was never confirmed by the Senate.
President Trump has not named an ambassador, but in his Miami speech, he
indicated that he intended to keep the embassy open. So if you're
traveling to Cuba or doing business there, the embassy will still
provide consular services as needed.
(6) Terrorism List
President Trump has not put Cuba back on the State Department's list of
countries that support international terrorism. Cuba was on that list
until 2015, when the U.S. intelligence community concluded that it met
the conditions for being removed and President Obama removed it. Since
then, U.S. and Cuban law enforcement officials have been cooperating on
counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics, and cyber crime. President Trump's
NSPM mentions law enforcement as an area where engagement with Cuba
serves U.S. national interest.
(7) Immigration Policy
President Trump is not restoring the wet foot/dry foot immigration
policy that gave Cubans arriving in the United States a fast track to
permanent residence and citizenship that no other immigrants enjoyed.
President Obama ended wet foot/dry foot just before leaving office and
President-elect Trump did not object at the time. Cuban immigrants are
now treated no differently than immigrants from other countries. In his
Miami speech, President Trump specifically said that he would not be
changing that policy.
(8) Bilateral Accords
Between December 17, 2014, When President Obama announced the
normalization of relations with Cuba, and the time he left office two
years later, Cuba and the United States signed almost two dozen
bilateral agreements on issues of mutual interest ranging from
environmental protection to commercial air service. global health, and
law enforcement. President Trump has not abrogated any of those
agreements, and his NSPM lists many of the fields in which agreements
have been signed as fields in which the United States will continue to
engage with Cuba because it is in the national interest.
Source: Eight Things You Need to Know about President Trump's New Cuba
Policy | HuffPost -