After several months of internal review, the Trump administration on June 16 announced revisions to U.S. policy toward Cuba. The internal review, led by the president’s National Security Council, engaged in an interagency review that included input from the Departments of State, Commerce, Agriculture, Homeland Security, Transportation and the Treasury. Additionally, President Trump met with members of Congress. In making the announcement, a senior administration official stated that the president’s “basic policy driver was his concern that the previous policy was enriching the Cuban military and the intelligence services that contribute so much to oppression on the island. And that’s the opposite of what he wanted to achieve, which is to have the benefits of any economic commerce with the United States go to the Cuban people.”
One White House senior official acknowledged that all the regulatory and policy changes initiated by President Obama from December 2014 through 2016 would be difficult to undo; however, the revised policy under the Trump administration will once again restrict certain travel and seek to limit providing any advantages to the Cuban military (particularly the Cuban military monopoly, Grupo de Administración Empresarial) while seeking to continue to allow “American individuals and entities to develop economic ties to the private, small business sector in Cuba.” The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) and the State Department are expected to update their lists of denied parties within the next 30 days. OFAC and BIS will also issue new regulations within that time to implement these policy changes. The president’s new policy will not become effective until those regulations are issued. The U.S. embassy in Havana will remain open, and Cuba will be allowed to maintain its embassy in Washington.
The policy clarifies that any further improvements in the United States-Cuba relationship will “depend entirely on the Cuban government’s willingness to improve the lives of the Cuban people, including through promoting the rule of law, respecting human rights, and taking concrete steps to foster political and economic freedoms.”