President Trump announced Friday a drastic change in the U.S.-Cuba relationship, swapping a policy of cultural exchange to bring about democratic ideals for something closer to the embargo-style policies from past decades. Speaking in Miami’s Little Havana district, Trump said he plans to cut off income to the Castro regime, with the hopes of bringing about free elections, by once again limiting tourism and trade to the island.
Reversing U.S.-Cuba policy was a campaign promise of Trump’s—one that has grown increasingly unpopular with the majority of Republican voters—but one that White House officials said Trump planned to keep. "Effective immediately,” Trump told the crowd, “I am canceling the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba.”
Trump’s policy change, however, does not go into effect immediately, as White House officials who briefed reports beforehand pointed out. The finer details will be worked out in the future by agencies like the Department of Treasury. Trump’s policy also does not completely reverse the Obama administration’s policy, though it takes away key parts that allowed travel and trade. The largest change from current policy will be doing away with “people-to-people” exchanges. These trips were enabled under the Obama administration so Americans could travel to Cuba without asking permission first from the U.S. government or having to schedule the trip through a licensed tour company. Trump’s new policy also prevents U.S. companies from doing business with Cuba’s Armed Forces Business Enterprises Group (GAESA), which, because it is involved with nearly every sector of the economy, will severely limit trade. Trump’s policy is expected to make an exception for U.S. companies already doing business with GAESA, so flights, cruises, and already-scheduled hotel deals will likely be exempt. Trump did not offer specifics to the deal in his speech, and instead he made sweeping claims that his “historic” policy would eventually defeat the Castro regime—despite his policy falling somewhere between the 50-year-old embargo and the more relaxed policy of the Obama administration.