US Government announced new extensive restrictions on travel to Cuba by United States citizens, effectively banning most of educational and recreational travel.
The Treasury Department said in a statement that the US will no longer allow the group educational and cultural trips known as “people-to-people” travel to the island. Those trips have been used by thousands of American citizens to visit the island.
Treasury said it would also deny permission for private and corporate aircraft and boats. However, commercial airline flights appear to be unaffected and travel for university groups, academic research, journalism and professional meetings will continue to be allowed.
The end to group educational travel would likely deal a heavy blow to American tourism on the island, which took off after former President Barack Obama moved to ease the half-century embargo against the Cuban government in 2014.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the measures were a response to what it called Cuba’s “destabilizing role” in the Western Hemisphere, including support for the government of President Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela. Most Western countries recognize Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s legitimate president, while countries including Cuba, Russia, China and Turkey continue to support Maduro.
“Cuba continues to play a destabilizing role in the Western Hemisphere, providing a communist foothold in the region and propping up US adversaries in places like Venezuela and Nicaragua by fomenting instability, undermining the rule of law, and suppressing democratic processes,” Mnuchin said. “This administration has made a strategic decision to reverse the loosening of sanctions and other restrictions on the Cuban regime. These actions will help to keep US dollars out of the hands of Cuban military, intelligence and security services.”
The new restrictions had been previewed by national security adviser John Bolton in an April speech in Miami to veterans of the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion but details of the changes were not made public until now. Treasury said the sanctions would take effect on today after they are published in the Federal Register.
After President Donald Trump came to office in January 2017 promising to reverse Obama’s thaw with Cuba, he banned individual visits and, in a series of moves, limited commercial interactions with the country.