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Trump Announces Cuba Policy Changes

President Donald Trump arrives to speak about Cuba policy, June 16, 2017, in Miami.
President Donald Trump arrives to speak about Cuba policy, June 16, 2017, in Miami.
Trump Announces Cuba Policy Changes
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President Donald Trump is changing measures that were set up to ease ties between the United States and Cuba.

The measures have been part of U.S. government policy since Barack Obama was president.

Trump announced the changes Friday during a visit to the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami, Florida.

The president said, the Obama administration’s easing of restrictions on travel and trade has not helped the Cuban people.

“Effective immediately, I am cancelling the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba,” Trump said.

He said the changes are aimed at cutting support for Cuba’s military and government. He called for a policy of “principled realism” toward the island country – one that does not reward its leaders.

Trump called for a “free Cuba” and strongly criticized the government. He accused it of shipping arms to North Korea and supporting unrest in Venezuela.

Trump also urged the government to release political prisoners, permit economic freedoms, and hold elections.

Yet diplomatic ties between the countries are not changing.

The president said “The embassy remains open in the hope that our countries can forge a better path.”

He added, “The American people are rejecting the Cuban people’s oppressors.”

Details of policy changes

Trump is barring Americans from doing business with the island’s GAESA business conglomerate, which is linked to the Cuban military. The conglomerate is estimated to control more than half of the country’s economy.

The action will limit the flow of money from the United States to Cuba.

Also, the existing ban on travel by individual U.S. citizens to Cuba will be enforced. That means “ending individual people-to-people travel.” Instead, Americans traveling to the island will have to be part of a group.

Supporters of the Obama policy on Cuba say the new restrictions will have a bad effect.

Brett Bruen worked in the Obama administration to change U.S. policy toward Cuba. He said the actions proposed by the Trump administration will set back relations with Cuba and other Latin American countries.

Bruen said, “Returning to the days of barriers and blockades will hurt American foreign policy, it will hurt American companies.”

Not a full return to the embargo years

However, the Trump administration said new rules will not affect other measures designed to increase trade with the island nation.

Officials said new rules will not “disrupt the existing business that has occurred.” This is meant to avoid hurting Americans who have made recent investments in Cuba.

President Donald Trump shows the signed executive order surrounded by cabinet members and supporters in Miami, Friday, June 16, 2017
President Donald Trump shows the signed executive order surrounded by cabinet members and supporters in Miami, Friday, June 16, 2017

Also, the new rules will not target popular Cuban goods such as rum and cigars.

During the speech, the president told the crowd that he was keeping the promise he made during the campaign to punish Cuba for human rights abuses.

The United States ordered a trade embargo on Cuba in 1960 two years after the Communist revolutionary Fidel Castro ousted leader Fulgencio Batista.

The embargo failed to remove Castro, or his brother Raul, from power.

Obama re-established diplomatic relations with Cuba in 2015.

President Trump has not called for a return to a policy known as “wet-foot, dry-foot,” which Obama ended in January before leaving office.

Under this policy, Cubans fleeing the island were permitted to stay in the United States if they reached U.S. soil. But if they were found at sea, they were returned to Cuba.

I’m Caty Weaver.

Steve Herman and Mario Ritter reported this story for VOA News. Mario Ritter adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

conglomerate – n. a very large company made up of many different businesses

disrupt – v. to interrupt normal processes, to make something unable to continue in a normal or regular way

embargo – n. restrictions

reward – v. to give money or some other kind of payment to