With eye on tight Florida race, Trump announces new restrictions on Cuban hotels, cigars and rum

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“Today, as part of our continued struggle against Communist oppression, I am announcing that the Treasury Department will ban American travelers from staying in properties owned by the Cuban government,” Trump said at an event in the White House in honor of the Bay of Pigs veterans. “We are also further restricting the importation of Cuban alcohol and Cuban tobacco. ”

“These actions will ensure that US dollars do not fund the Cuban regime and go directly to the Cuban people,” the president said.

The announcement appeared to be a clear attempt to woo Cuban-American voters in Florida, which is seen by many analysts as a must-see state for Trump if he is to be re-elected in November.

On Wednesday, according to a new ABC News / Washington Post poll, Trump was 51% over former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden, 47% among the state’s likely voters, a result within the margin of error.

The administration is also eliminating blanket permits for U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba for sporting events, performances, or business meetings and conferences. Now, US citizens wishing to travel to Cuba for these activities will need to apply for a specific license, according to a statement from the US Treasury Department.Last year, the State Department provided a list of restricted entities, including hotels, which the United States claims are “under the control of or acting for or on behalf of the military. Cuban, intelligence or security services or personnel with whom direct financial transactions. would disproportionately benefit from such services or personnel at the expense of the Cuban people or private enterprise in Cuba. ”

The increased sanctions further reduce the warming of the Obama administration’s relationship with Cuba, one of former President Barack Obama’s signature foreign policy initiatives.

In announcing the restrictions in Cuba, the president also said: “We are also imposing strict sanctions on the dictatorships of Nicaragua and Venezuela. We have brought criminal charges against Maduro for his narcoterrorism. It is not clear whether Trump was announcing additional sanctions against the two countries or highlighting previous administration decisions.

In a conference call with reporters, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Cuba and Venezuela Carrie Filipetti said the new measures were designed to encourage Americans legally visiting Cuba to stay in small guesthouses. run by ordinary Cuban citizens rather than government-run hotels.

“These are some of the ordinary Cubans that the administration’s policies seek to address,” she said.

The Trump administration has identified 433 hotels and properties where Americans will no longer be able to stay in Cuba, Filipetti said.

Filipetti denied that the new sanctions announced so close to the November election had anything to do with the favor of Cuban-American Conservative voters.

“There is no connection with an inner question,” she said.

This announcement is unlikely to have an immediate impact on the Cuban economy, as the Cuban government closed the borders almost six months ago and all commercial flights from the United States have been suspended due to the coronavirus epidemic.

Carlos Fernandez de Cossio, Cuba’s top diplomat in charge of US affairs, lambasted the sanctions, writing on Twitter: “Shocked and disappointed by the force of the revolution despite its brutal economic war, the US government has adopted aggressive new measures that will further restrict the rights of American citizens. “

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