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U.S. Cruise Line And People-To-People Visits Eliminated Under New Cuba Travel Restrictions

Matias J. Ocner
Miami Herald
A Norwegian cruise line ship docked in the port of Havana.

On Tuesday the Trump Administration further tightened U.S. travel restrictions to Cuba. This time the changes are heavy – and a potential blow to an important South Florida industry.

Two years ago President Trump promised his conservative Cuban exile supporters in Miami that he’d get tough again on communist Cuba. His early limits on U.S. travel to Cuba weren’t all that severe. But his new ones are – and meant mostly, say his administration, to pressure Cuba to stop propping up Venezuela's authoritarian socialist regime.

The most unexpected measure is a ban on U.S. passenger cruise service to Cuba. Most cruise lines that sail to Cuba are based in South Florida – like Carnival, headquartered in Doral. (They also include major carriers like Norwegian and Royal Caribbean.) Last year they carried an estimated 800,000 passengers to the island.

Some analysts believe the impact of that new ban might not be too great since Cuba is usually one of a number of destinations for those cruises. Others argue it’s huge: Because of its novelty, Cuba is the major passenger draw for such voyages today. Carnival told WLRN it is still studying the details of the ban.

Another major change is the elimination of the people-to-people travel license, which was the major way Americans got permission to visit Cuba.

Academics, journalists and other professionals will still be able to make trips to Cuba. And – at least for now – U.S. airlines will still be able to take them.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, whose department issued the new regulations, called them a response to Cuba's "destabilizing" role in the hemisphere, particularly its alleged control over the security apparatus in Venezuela, which is suffering the world's worst economic collapse today.

Conservative Florida Senator and Cuban-American Marco Rubio said the U.S. "must use all tools available under U.S. law to counter the Cuban regime's deceitful activities to undermine U.S. policy." Critics of the measures, however, say they're more political, meant to galvanize hardline Cuban voters who Trump believes won Florida for him in the 2016 election.

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. Contact Tim at tpadgett@wlrnnews.org
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