In June, President Donald Trump announced he planned to restrict travel for Americans to Cuba as apart of an effort to weaken the Cuban government.
Tomorrow, those rules go into effect.
As expected, the rules largely center around the Grupo de Administración Empresarial (GAESA), a state run Cuban military holding company that is believed to control over half of Cuba’s economic and the vast majority of its tourism business.
The State Department has published a list of 180 companies that Americans are no longer able to do business with. It includes dozens of hotels around Cuba, as well as select stores, other businesses and agencies. Notably, neither Habanos S.A. or La Casa del Habano appear on the list.
For Americans interested beyond Cuban cigars, it will make travel to the island more challenging. Individual person-to-person trips are now banned. Instead, travelers to Cuba are largely restricted to a “general license” for one of 12 activities:
- family visits
- official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations
- journalistic activity
- professional research and professional meetings
- educational activities
- religious activities
- public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions
- support for the Cuban people
- humanitarian projects
- activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
- exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials
- certain authorized export transactions
Visitors are still able to stay at houses rented out through services like airbnb, eat at restaurants not on the banned list and buy Cuban cigars and rum.
It’s not clear how the U.S. government plans on enforcing said rules given cash is used exclusively by American travelers in Cuba. Furthermore, while some hotels are explicitly mentioned on the list of banned companies, others are not explicitly listed but are owned by holding companies which are.
They will also be able to bring back Cuban cigars and rum, so long as it meets the personal use designation. This allows visitors to bring back cigars from any country, including Cuba, totaling no more than 100 cigars and valued at no more than $800 every 31 days, otherwise they must pay tax.
Of note, Ron Caney and Ron Varadero are mentioned on the list. It’s not clear why those two labels are specifically targeted while Havana Club is not on the list, though both labels offer tours.
The move comes just days after a handful of companies, notably Caterpillar, announced it had secured contracts to do business in Cuba. Those contracts are not expected to be affected by the new restrictions.