Republicans divided as Trump reverses some Obama Cuba policy

Trump's new ruling "cancels" the historic agreement struck between former US President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raúl Castro in 2015.

In December 2014, former USA president Barack Obama announced that the United States would normalize relations with Cuba after more than 50 years of non-engagement and hostilities.

Trump asserted that the USA will take concrete steps to ensure that investments flow directly to the people so they can open private businesses and begin to build their country's "great, great future, a country of great potential". USA airlines and cruise ships will still be allowed to serve the island 90 miles south of Florida.

"The Cuban administration is a violator of human rights as much as some of the people who President Trump has praised and admired on his recent trip, such as the King of Saudi Arabia and the president of Egypt", said Peter Schechter, a Latin America specialist who most recently headed the Atlantic Council's Latin American center.

The statement added that Trump had been "poorly advised" to favour the political interests of an "extremist minority" of Cuban-Americans living in Florida, who, because of "petty motivations, will not give up on their ambition of punishing Cuba".

Later in the day, the Cuban government criticised Donald Trump's new restrictions, but said it was willing to hold "respectful dialogue" with Washington, reported Al-Jazeera. It pledges to help the entrepreneurial class that has grown since President Raul Castro enacted changes after taking office a decade ago.

The President said it was hard to think of a policy "that makes less sense than the prior administration's awful and misguided deal" with the "brutal" Castro government.

Targeting payments to the Cuban military will have an impact on the tourism industry because of the military's vast involvement in the broader Cuban economy, including through ownership of the Gaviota hotel chain. But those businesses host hundreds of thousands of Canadian, European and Latin American tourists a year, and do unfettered business with corporations from around the world, reducing the impact of any USA cutoff.

The goal is not to harm USA businesses that have already begun business in Cuba under Obama's rapprochement and there will be exceptions in the regulations for airlines, cruise ships and other businesses.

The new policy will ban most USA business transactions with the Armed Forces Business Enterprises Group (GAESA), a sprawling conglomerate involved in all sectors of the economy, but make some exceptions, including for air and sea travel, the officials said.

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Previous Northern Ireland executives have wanted to bring it down to 12.5% to match the corresponding rate in the Irish Republic.

"Over the last months, the uptake in travel from the United States to Cuba has not been as high as expected, primarily as hotel capacity has not kept up with the demand, leading to some of the USA airlines cutting back capacity to the island".

"The policy centres on the belief that the oppressed Cuban people - rather than the oppressive Castro regime's military and its subsidiaries - should benefit from American engagement with the island", he said. The Cuban government has traditionally steered those tour groups to state-run business, meaning the majority of American travelers to Cuba will probably no longer be able to patronize private restaurants, bed-and-breakfasts and taxi drivers.

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Numerous high-profile fugitives in Cuba are black or Puerto Rican militants who were offered political asylum by Fidel Castro during the 1970s and 1980s.

In a contentious internal debate, some aides argued that Trump, a former real estate magnate who won the presidency promising to unleash USA business and create jobs, would have a hard time defending any moves that close off the Cuban market.

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci). President Donald Trump cheers Cuban born violinist Luis Haza after playing the national anthem during a speech on Cuba policy, Friday, June 16, 2017, in Miami.

Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, both Republican, Cuban-American hardliners, lobbied Trump hard toward reversal. Rock Scott, Cary Roque, and Vice President Mike Pence.

The Cuban media called Trump's new foreign policy on Cuba "regrettable" and "archaic".

Although diplomatic relations, restored only two years ago, will remain intact, Trump tightened rules for Americans travelling to Cuba, banned ties with a military-run tourism firm and reaffirmed the existing United States trade embargo.

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