President Donald Trump will Friday announce a clampdown on US business with Cuba and tighter rules on travel to the island, in a move to roll back his predecessor Barack Obama's historic outreach to Havana.
Trump headed early Friday to Miami's Little Havana, spiritual home of the Cuban-American exile community, to unveil the policy shift in an address at the Manuel Artime Theater -- named after an anti-communist veteran of the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion.
US officials told reporters that he will prohibit financial transactions with Cuba's military-backed tourism conglomerate GAESA, a body which might otherwise have hoped for a windfall from a new surge in American visitors.
"The basic policy driver is concern that the previous policy was enriching the military and the intelligence services that contribute so much to oppression on the island," a senior administration official said.
"That's the opposite of what he wanted to achieve," he added, arguing that Trump's move is not a step back to the Cold War-era embargo that Obama started to dismantle, but a recognition that Raul Castro's one-party regime has a long way to go to meet its promises of reform.
"The hope of the administration is that the Cuban regime will see this as an opportunity for them to implement the reforms that they paid lip service to a couple of years ago but that have not in any way been implemented to the benefit of the Cuban people," he said.
Run by Castro's son-in-law Luis Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas, GAESA is involved in joint ventures with several foreign firms that have driven a tourism boom on the island, including the Marriott hotel chain.
- Human rights -
Under a new National Security Presidential Memorandum, Trump is also expected to announce stricter application of the rules under which Americans can travel to Cuba.
American citizens will still be able to take commercial flights to Cuba, but only for 12 specific reasons -- ranging from journalism to educational activities -- which will be more tightly enforced.
Cuban-Americans will still be able to travel to Cuba and send remittances, limiting the impact in Florida, where many Cuban emigres settled and where many of them turned out last year to vote for Trump.
Miami's Cuban-American population, members of which will greet Trump on Friday in the Manuel Artime Theater, have a reputation for diehard anti-communism and an opposition to thawing ties.
But in the Little Havana district on Thursday some -- even those who had fled oppression -- were philosophical about detente.
"Obama did the right thing," said 77-year-old Manuel Gonzales, who left the island in 2006. "The only person responsible for the embargo was Castro. We have to look forward, not back."
Others were not so forgiving. Marta Diaz, now 75, left Cuba in 1967 and time has done nothing to dull her anger towards the authoritarian regime. She wants Trump to impose "harsh measures" to pressure Havana into recognizing "women's rights and human rights."
Trump's measures stop short of reversing Obama's opening, but they signal a tougher stance that could slow the number of Americans who have begun to head to Cuba for Havana city breaks or longer beach holidays.
- Small businesses -
Boosting travel was a key aim of Obama's painstaking effort to restore ties with the communist-run island, which included a landmark visit by the then-president in 2016.
Some 285,000 people visited the Caribbean country in 2016, up 74 percent over 2015, with Americans the third biggest group after Canadians and Cuban expats.
"New restrictions on engagement with Cuban economy only pushes Cuba to China and Russia who will gladly make up the difference," argued former White House official Ben Rhodes, the architect of Obama's Cuba policy.
"Any limitations on travel hurt Cuban small business owners -- restaurants, shops, taxis -- that depend on travelers for revenue."
Engage Cuba, a group lobbying for an end to the embargo, estimates that 10,000 US jobs in aviation and the cruise business already depend on Cuba.
Even with carve outs, the new policy could pose problems for some US businesses, including hoteliers and airlines who have put on regular flights between the US and the Cuban capital.
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