President Trump’s Cuba Proposals Would Roll Back Current Policies

by Snell & Wilmer

Snell & Wilmer

On June 16, 2017, President Trump proposed new Cuba policies that would roll back certain changes made by the Obama Administration. Chief among the President’s sought changes are: (1) a complete ban on economic activities that channel money toward businesses owned or operated by the Cuban military, (2) restrictions on U.S. travel for individual “people-to-people” trips or educational purposes, and (3) the creation of a State Department committee aimed at expanding free wireless internet access in Cuba.

The Obama administration made sweeping changes to U.S. policy toward Cuba in 2014. These changes reestablished diplomatic relations between the countries, allowed for U.S. air carriers and cruise ships to make direct service to the island, and created 12 travel categories under which Americans could travel to Cuba without pre-approval from the U.S. Government.

Though significant attention has been paid to President Trump’s efforts to reverse the Obama administration’s policies, much will remain the same. The most important changes target businesses linked to GAESA, the Cuban military’s business and commercial arm. The new policy would ban any U.S. payments directly to GAESA-linked businesses. Also significant for U.S. travelers, the proposal would eliminate the individual “people-to-people” trips that had allowed individuals to make “educational” trips outside the context of academic study. Under the new proposal, group “people-to-people” travel will still be allowed, meaning that Americans will need to travel with U.S.-tied tour groups that sponsor these exchanges. The United States will also monitor trips more closely to ensure that travelers are pursuing a “full-time schedule of educational exchange activities.”[1]

With the exception of these modifications, many of the current policies will remain in effect. President Trump’s policies would preserve the embassies in Washington, D.C. and Havana; the ability of U.S. airlines and cruise ships to service Cuba; and the legality of remittances from individuals in the United States to those in Cuba. Americans will remain free to patronize state-run hotels and businesses that are not directly linked with Cuba’s military and state-security services. Further U.S. tourists will be happy to know that there will be no changes in their ability to bring back marquee Cuban products – including rum and cigars.

The proposed new policies have yet to take effect, while the U.S. Treasury and Commerce Departments begin the process of drafting official regulations. As a result, Americans with upcoming travel plans will not be affected until the new regulations are implemented in the coming months.

What remains clear in this flurry of activity is that the U.S. sanctions against Cuba will likely continue to change in the months and years ahead. Companies currently engaged in business with Cuba or considering potential future business opportunities on the island may wish to ensure relationships with Cuban entities undergo proper due diligence, adequate compliance programs are in place, training on company policies regarding these sanctions regularly occurs, and a clear plan exists to handle any alleged violations.



[1] See Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), Frequently Asked Questions on President Trump’s Cuba Announcement (June 16, 2017), available at

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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