June 4, 2019 / 3:08 PM / 2 months ago

Trump administration tightens restrictions on Cuba travel

HAVANA, June 4 (Reuters) - The Trump administration on Tuesday imposed heavy new restrictions on travel to Cuba, saying the move aimed to further pressure the Communist government over its support for Venezuela’s embattled President Nicolas Maduro.

The Treasury Department said in a statement the United States would no longer allow so-called group people-to-people educational travel, one of the most popular exemptions to the overall ban on U.S. tourism to Cuba.

It also said it would no longer authorize passenger and recreational vessels and private and corporate aircraft to travel to Cuba.

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, which has steadily been tightening the decades-old U.S. trade and travel embargo on Cuba since it came to power, had announced the new restrictions in April as part of its battle against socialism in Latin America.

“Cuba continues to play a destabilizing role in the Western Hemisphere, providing a communist foothold in the region and propping up U.S. adversaries in places like Venezuela and Nicaragua by fomenting instability, undermining the rule of law, and suppressing democratic processes,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

“These actions will help to keep U.S. dollars out of the hands of Cuban military, intelligence, and security services.”

Various lawyers and Cuba experts said the new restrictions looked likely to end U.S. cruises to the island, which have been allowed since a brief 2014-2016 detente between Cuba and the United States under former U.S. President Barack Obama.

“US cruise ship travel to Cuba has been a walking deadman since the Trump administration announced impending restrictions on non-Cuban American travel several weeks ago,” Washington lawyer Robert Muse said by email.

“The pity is the cruise ships dragged down with them many valuable educational travel programs conducted by major US institutions such as National Geographic, Smithsonian, MetropolitanMuseum and dozens of others.” (Reporting by Sarah Marsh and Marc Frank in Havana; Editing by Tom Brown)

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