In an overhaul of one of his predecessor's signature legacies, President Donald Trump will redraw U.S. policy toward Cuba on Friday, tightening travel restrictions for Americans that had been loosened under President Barack Obama and banning U.S. business transactions with Cuba's vast military conglomerate.
Trump's changes are intended to sharply curtail cash flow to the Cuban government and pressure its communist leaders to let the island's fledgling private sector grow. Diplomatic relations reestablished by Obama, including reopened embassies in Washington and Havana, will remain. Travel and money sent by Cuban Americans will be unaffected, but Americans will be unable to spend money in state-run hotels or restaurants tied to the military, a significant prohibition.
Air travel from the United States to Cuba, and in particular Havana, may see a massive increase as the result of a new deal between the two countries:
The United States and Cuba have struck a deal to allow as many as 110 regular airline flights a day, allowing a surge of American travel to Cuba that could eventually flood the island with hundreds of thousands more U.S. visitors a year, officials said Thursday on the anniversary of detente between the Cold War foes.
The deal reached Wednesday night after three days of talks in Washington opens the way for U.S. airlines to negotiate with Cuba's government for 20 routes a day to Havana and 10 to each of Cuba's other nine major airports, the State Department said. While it will likely take months before the first commercial flight to Havana, the reestablishment of regular aviation to Cuba after half a century will almost certainly be the biggest business development since the two countries began normalizing relations last year.
Even a fraction of the newly allowed number of flights would more than double current U.S. air traffic to Cuba but it may take years to reach that number. U.S. travel to Cuba has risen by more than 50 percent this year alongside an even great surge in travel from other countries, overwhelming the country's outmoded tourist infrastructure.
President Obama has become the first U.S. president to visit Cuba since long before the Cuban embargo began:
President Barack Obama embarked on Sunday on a historic trip to Cuba where a Communist government that vilified the United States for decades prepared a red-carpet welcome. Lifting off from Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, Obama headed for Havana where the sight of Air Force One, America's iconic presidential jet, touching down on Cuban soil would have been unimaginable not long ago.
The three-day trip, the first by a U.S. president in 88 years, is the culmination of a diplomatic opening announced by Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro in December 2014, ending a Cold War-era estrangement that began when the Cuban revolution ousted a pro-American government in 1959. Obama, who abandoned a longtime U.S. policy of trying to isolate Cuba internationally, now wants to make his shift irreversible. But major obstacles remain to full normalization of ties.
Ahead of Obama's arrival, plainclothes police blanketed the capital with security while public works crews busily laid down asphalt in a city where drivers joke they must navigate "potholes with streets." Welcome signs with images of Obama alongside Castro popped up in colonial Old Havana, where the president and his family will tour later on Sunday.
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The World Socialist Web Site reports
Under the previous policy, Cubans who made it to dry land in US territory were permitted to enter the country and take advantage of the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act, which allowed Cubans to claim permanent US residency after one year in the country. Cubans who were interdicted at sea by the US Coast Guard, on the other hand, were returned to Cuba.
[...] On January 12, President Barack Obama announced that, effective immediately, the US government would end the so-called "Wet Foot, Dry Foot" policy, as well as the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program. In a joint statement detailing the changes in migration policy, the Cuban government agreed to accept Cuban nationals deported or returned by the US.
Through these programs, Cubans were extended preferential immigration status and a continued incentive to leave the country, which contributed to a "brain drain" of trained professionals and provided Washington and right-wing Cuban exiles the fodder for propaganda about state repression in Cuba fueling a constant stream of refugees.
Cuba has an abundance of well-trained medical personnel. Economist Dean Baker has pointed out that allowing the American Medical Association to construct artificial barriers to expanding USA's medical labor force is dumb and makes healthcare more expensive.