US President Donald Trump expanded sanctions against Cuba on Wednesday, prohibiting US travelers from staying at Cuban government-owned properties, and further banning US citizens from importing Cuban rum and cigars.
Trump announced the sanctions during the Bay of Pigs Veterans’ Memorial on Wednesday. He said: “Today, as part of our continuing fight against communist oppression, I am announcing that the Treasury Department will prohibit U.S. travelers from staying at properties owned by the Cuban government. We’re also further restricting the importation of Cuban alcohol and Cuban tobacco.”
Under the new sanctions, US citizens will be able to purchase Cuban alcohol and cigars but will not be able to carry them back to the US. This policy rolls back the former policy allowing US citizens to transport as much of the rum and cigars as they could fit in their bags.
In a statement regarding the sanctions, US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin claimed “[t]he Cuban regime has been redirecting revenue from authorized U.S. travel for its own benefit, often at the expense of the Cuban people.” He praised the Trump administration, declaring that they are “committed to denying Cuba’s oppressive regime access to revenues used to fund their malign activities.”
The expanded sanctions come one day after the Miami Herald released an article claiming Trump registered his trademark in Cuba in 2008, seeking to invest in real estate, hotels, casinos and golf courses.
Among the banned accommodations is the historic Hotel Nacional, site of the Siege of Hotel Nacional de Cuba and of the “Havana Conference,” an infamous mob summit. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recommended that US travelers instead stay at casa particulares, private accommodations owned by independent entrepreneurs.
Collin Laverty, president of Cuba Educational Travel, criticized the sanctions, claiming that the policy has nothing to do with Cuba, and everything to do with the upcoming US presidential election. “It’s about South Florida and it places absolutely no importance on the well-being of the Cuban people, democracy, human rights or advancing U.S. national interests in the region.”
Further, Democratic National Committee spokesperson Enrique Gutiérrez faulted the move by the Trump administration:
American citizens are already banned from traveling to Cuba because of the coronavirus, and Trump has privately sought to do business with the country for years and ignored the embargo. He’s filed trademarks with the Cuban government to make money on golf courses, hotels, and more — but now that he’s lagging in the polls, he’s just using our foreign policy for his own political gain.