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Trump's New Cuba Travel and Business Rules

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on November 10, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

'I am canceling the last administration's completely one-sided deal with Cuba,' President Donald Trump declared in June, announcing yet another rollback or rescission of Obama-era policies. And those new rules went into effect this week, banning Americans from doing business with 180 listed entities with ties to the Cuban military, intelligence, and security services, including over 80 hotels, stores, marinas, tourist agencies, and industries owned by the government or its subsidiaries.

So you may want to hold off packing your bags for a Havana getaway -- while U.S. citizens are prohibited from traveling to or doing business in Cuba entirely, there are some additional restrictions you should know about.

Ebbing Embargo

The Trump administration's new rules make it illegal for Americans and U.S. companies to enter into financial transactions with Cuba's military, Grupo de Administración Empresarial, S.A. (GAESA) or any of its "affiliates, subsidiaries or successors." And GAESA's reach may be broader than you'd imagine -- the military owns interests in tourism brands that operate hotel rooms, rental car companies, taxi and tour bus operations, and even convenience stores. The list of restricted entities and subentities associated with Cuban military includes 180 businesses along with Cuban government officials who are prohibited from receiving payment or gifts.

American businesses may still apply for licenses to do business with prohibited Cuban entities -- and some big names like Caterpillar and Deere & Co. snuck deals in under Trump's deadline -- but they must demonstrate how any such deal would benefit the Cuban people as opposed to the Cuban military.

Cuban Culture

The same is true for American tourists. Outright tourism remains prohibited (sorry, beach and mojito fans), and U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba must continuously participate in activities that "support contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people's independence."

According to Collin Laverty, president of a group that organizes such trips to Cuba, that bar shouldn't be too difficult to clear. "Americans can rest assured that it's still completely legal to visit Cuba," Laverty told the Miami Herald. "Commercial flights, cruise ships, Marriott hotels, Airbnb and top-notch tour providers continue to operate business as usual, and it takes just minutes to secure your legal trip to the island."

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