US Bans Most Solo Travel to Cuba, Imposes Tighter Sanctions



The US administration has published a series of measures increasing limits on Americans' dealings with Cuba. The Four Points by Sheraton Havana, owned by the U.S. company Starwood, is notably absent from the list, even while the Cuban holding company operating the hotel is on the list.

Such measures entail changes in the program of sanctions against Cuba that was announced by the Republican president in June, when he made a decision to roll back several steps on Cuba taken his predecessor, Barack Obama (2009-2017).

The changes take effect Thursday.

In terms of travels, non-academic individual trips will not be authorized and US citizens traveling to Cuba under the auspices of an organization must be accompanied by a representative of the group, among other restrictions.

The new rules "are meant 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, according to a senior administration official, one of several authorized by the White House to brief reporters on the changes on condition of anonymity.

Individuals traveling for so called "people-to-people" outreach will no longer be able to visit the country, except where travel arrangements have already been made, or in cases where these individuals are accompanied by permitted, US-based sponsors, a senior administration official explained to reporters on a conference call. "We do not want USA dollars to prop up a military monopoly that exploits and abuses the citizens of Cuba".

When it comes travel, individual educational travel not linked to an academic entity will no longer be allowed.

Groups that advocate for greater engagement with Cuba were dismayed by the administration's announcement, arguing that the new rules would only serve to harm the island's burgeoning private sector economy.

The State Department has said those actions were in response to severe health problems experienced by two dozen American diplomats in Cuba, which it said were the result of unspecified "attacks" on US personnel. But they do ban Americans from doing business with scores of companies with ties to Cuba's military or security apparatus. USA government officials told The Associated Press that the restrictions aim to decrease American trade and commerce with businesses backed by the Cuban military.

The administration's policy change comes 20 months after Obama became the first sitting US president in almost a century to visit the island - part of numerous efforts his administration made to thaw relations between the United States and Cuba.

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