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US sets new restrictions on business ties and travel to Cuba

Tracy Wilkinson, Tribune Washington Bureau on

Published in Business News

WASHINGTON -- The Trump administration announced new rules Wednesday to make it tougher for U.S. businesses to work in Cuba and for Americans to travel to the island.

The restrictions are aimed at finally enacting what Trump in June described as plans to reverse the Obama-era diplomatic opening with the communist-ruled island.

Effective Thursday, businesses will be required to obey a new set of regulations that are "intended to steer economic activity away from the Cuban military, intelligence and security services," a senior White House official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to brief reporters.

The Cuban military is deeply enmeshed in much of the island's economy, including the tourism industry.

Individuals will be prohibited from traveling to Cuba under the new rules but can continue as part of groups registered with the U.S. government and following the so-called "people-to-people" plan, which generally requires the trip to have an educational component.

Travel by Americans to the island had exploded in the months since President Barack Obama renewed diplomatic ties with Cuba in 2015, following a half-century of Cold War-era hostility.

Advocates of better ties with Cuba reacted with anger.

"At a time that President Trump is meeting with communist leaders in China and Vietnam, these regulations show the absolute hypocrisy and political pandering of the Trump administration on Cuba," said Collin Laverty, president of Cuba Educational Travel, a group that arranges trips to the island.

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