President Donald Trump announced Wednesday new sanctions on Cuba, which prohibit Americans from staying in hotels on the island and buying tobacco or alcohol to bring back home, in an attempt to win over Latino voters in the key state of Florida.
“Today I announce that the Treasury Department will prohibit American travelers from staying in property owned by the Cuban government,” Trump said during a White House event with former combatants who participated in the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.
The measure further strangles the island’s tourism sector, where all hotels are linked to the Cuban government, and leaves Americans with no option but to stay in private homes of self-employed people.
Until now, Americans have been able to stay in very few hotels in Cuba, since the Trump government vetoed transactions with companies controlled by Cuba’s military, intelligence and security services three years ago; and the Armed Forces control many of the island’s lodgings.
In a statement, the Treasury Department explained that, from now on, Americans will also not be able to stay in any property that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has “identified as owned or controlled by the Cuban government” or figures affiliated with that executive.
The measure affects 433 hotels on the island, Carrie Filipetti, who is responsible for Cuba and Venezuela policy at the State Department, said in a press appearance.
In addition, the Treasury Department prohibited Americans visiting Cuba from bringing back any “alcohol or tobacco products of Cuban origin”, which cancels a directive from former President Barack Obama that allowed to legally carry in the luggage those products up to $100.
The Trump government also extended travel restrictions to Cuba, where tourism by Americans is already prohibited, by removing the authorization that allowed its citizens to “attend or organize professional meetings or conferences in Cuba,” something that will now only be allowed in exceptional cases, upon request.
Since coming to power in 2017, Trump has frozen the process of normalizing relations with Cuba that his predecessor began by imposing limits on remittances and constraining the island’s tourism sector.
As the November 3 elections approach, in which he seeks a second term and wants to retain the favor of Cuban Americans in the key state of Florida, Trump has toughened his discourse towards Havana.
“We will not lift our sanctions on Cuba until all political prisoners are free, freedoms of assembly and expression are respected, all parties are legalized and free elections are scheduled,” Trump said Wednesday.