President Donald Trump's decision to go back on the past administration's Cuba policy may, at first glance, sound like it's rooted in good intentions. But once the consequences of his new policy are analyzed closely, it's easy to see why this move will hurt those who Trump claims to be helping.
Saying that former President Barack Obama “made a deal with a government that spread violence and instability in the region,” Trump announced that he will return to a policy of restrictions on travel and trade, keeping many Americans from both visiting and doing business in Cuba.
Trump defended his stance by saying that the past policy “does not help the Cuban people.” Instead, he said, opening up commercial relations “only [enriches] the Cuban regime."
But the new policy, once again, restricts the number of reasons Americans may claim when attempting to visit the island. Sanctions regarding business dealings between the U.S. and companies controlled by the Cuban military are also going to be reinstated, and American tourists will be prohibited from spending money in hotels or restaurants that are in any way linked to the Cuban government.
This puts U.S. residents under the Treasury Department's scrutiny, as Americans will have to be audited so that the U.S. government is certain their trips are following protocol.
In other words, Trump is restricting the freedom of Americans even further while saying it's for the Cuban people's own good.
Still, when it comes to the Cuban people — the same who've been suffering under the current regime — the idea that the new restrictions and audit threats may keep Americans from visiting the island sounds like a death threat.
Ever since the Obama administration made it easier for Americans to travel to Cuba, a number of small business owners have seen a great deal of money coming in from American tourists.
Dionys Diaz, 33, is one of them. As a driver who gives Americans rides in a restored 1954 Chevy convertible in Havana, Obama's policy helped his business prosper.
“More than half my customers are Americans … the best tippers,” he said.
To restaurant owner Enrique Núñez, a reversal of the current policy means that the flow of cash to private business will slow down, putting U.S. dollars again solely in the hands of the Cuban regime.
Michael Wissenstein, news director for The Associated Press' Caribbean Bureau, agrees.
According to Trump's new order, Americans will only be allowed to visit the island if they are part of tour groups. But in Cuba, such groups are completely controlled by the island's government.
Essentially, Trump is restricting Americans from spending money as they please on the island to, once again, put U.S. dollars back in the hands of the government, which will continue to control all flux of American tourists reaching the country.
Most puzzling thing: reinstates requirement for Americans to come only with tour groups, which are, on Cuban end, controlled by government— Michael Weissenstein (@mweissenstein) June 15, 2017
So unless I'm missing something, effect will be redirecting $$$ of tens of thousands of Americans from Cuban private sector to Cuban state— Michael Weissenstein (@mweissenstein) June 15, 2017
So unless Trump's goal really is to hurt the Cuban people, his new plan will achieve nothing but the very opposite of what he claims, hurting those who have benefited from the small but meaningful opening of trade between the two nations.
Is he ready to admit defeat once the economic realities of his plan begin to force Cubans to either flee or to continue living in misery as they did before? Something tells us he will just blame it on someone else.
Banner/thumbnail credit: Reuters