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Cuba Educational Policy Reversal Condemned

19 June 2017

In a speech given Friday in Miami, Trump announced a harsher USA policy towards the island, even though he won't void all of his predecessor Barack Obama's decisions.

The statement, however, added that Cuba "reiterates its willingness to continue the respectful dialogue and cooperation that have taken place with Washington since 2015 when the drive for restored ties began under Obama". Diplomatic relations will remain in tact and commercial air and sea links will be exempted from the new restrictions. Trump's vow to keep the broader decades-old U.S. economic embargo on Cuba firmly in place drew criticism from some USA farmers, especially growers of corn, soybeans and rice.

Earlier Friday, Trump said he was "cancelling" his predecessor Barack Obama's agreement with the communist island state, which had re-established diplomatic ties after fifty years. The move to end the decades-old US isolation of Cuba "does not help the Cuban people; they only enrich the Cuban regime", he said. And the U.S. government will police other trips to ensure travellers are pursuing a "full-time schedule of educational exchange activities".

The policy will also ban most American financial transactions with the military-linked conglomerate that dominates much of the Cuban economy, including dozens of hotels, along with state-run restaurants and tour buses.

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One of the major changes in the policy directive is that USA travelers making educational people-to-people trips can no longer go to Cuba individually but must travel in groups accompanied by a company representative.

Other categories of allowed travel to Cuba, such as for Cuban-Americans to visit family and educational exchanges, will still be allowed.

In essence, Mr. Trump's announcement on Friday allowed him to claim fulfillment of a campaign promise, while leaving a vast portion of the Obama policies intact. Still, the president's moves are not created to massively disrupt existing commercial ties that have grown between the USA and Cuba since the Obama administration moved to restore diplomatic ties in late 2014. Cuban-Americans can send their funds to Florida.

"The small, nascent Cuban private sector and cuentapropistas [the self-employed]... were meant to be the primary beneficiaries of the expanded travel and limited trade allowed under Obama's policies".

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"This is a limitation on what we did, not a reversal of what we did", Rhodes said. Just across the park from the theater where Obama spoke, GAESA's subsidiaries have partnered with Swiss luxury chain Kempinski to open a $500-a-night hotel atop a new luxury mall that sells $3,000 Mont Blanc wristwatches. But Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, whose leftist government is Cuba's main regional ally, slammed Trump's tightening of restrictions as an "offence" against Latin America.

Cuba is about to receive its first major Russian oil shipment this century, and Moscow has pledged a $2 billion investment in the Cuban railroad. "We're the ones who are hurt". Trump aides say Obama's efforts amounted to "appeasement" and have done nothing to advance political freedoms in Cuba, while benefiting the Cuban government financially.

Granma, the official organ of Cuba's Communist Party, described Trump's declarations as "a return to imperialist rhetoric and unilateral demands". As a result, U.S.travel to Cuba roughly tripled by the time Obama left office.

Cuba functioned as a virtual U.S. colony for much of the 20th century, and even reform-minded Cubans are highly sensitive to perceived United States infringements on national sovereignty.

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Trump, taking a tougher approach against Havana after promising to do so during the presidential campaign, will outline stricter enforcement of a long-time ban on Americans going to Cuba as tourists and will seek to prevent US dollars from being used to fund what the new USA administration sees as a repressive military-dominated government.