Cruises and People to People Travel at Risk
Travel to Cuba by anyone except Cuban Americans is in grave danger. National Security Adviser John Bolton
of the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion on April 17th that
"the Department of the Treasury will implement further regulatory
to restrict non-family travel to Cuba, or in other words, 'veiled tourism.'"
"Veiled tourism" is the pejorative term used by Mauricio Claver-Carone, Senior Director of the National Security Council's Western Hemisphere Affairs office, to attack the Obama opening of purposeful travel. It was a prominent theme when he published the hard line blog Capitol Hill Cubans and ran the US-Cuba Democracy PAC that funneled large amounts of conservative exile money to candidates nationwide.
Based on an interview with "a high-ranking official who spoke on condition of anonymity" the Miami Herald
the new policy, "could signal the end of cruises."
Additional targets are assumed to be participants in people to people tours and independent travelers. Student programs, professional conference, artistic exchanges, religious missions and other license categories could also be affected.
Travel by Cuban Americans was not touched, but family remittances (and investments) were reduced drastically from unlimited to $1,000 per quarter.
Ahead of his skis?
It is not clear whether Bolton represented the full Trump Administration or his own hawkish ideology and long declared animus to Cuba. (Bolton tried to undermine a ground breaking visit of former President Carter to Havana with phony accusations of biological warfare research.) Although Bolton announced
"the Department of the Treasury will implement further regulatory changes", staff of the State and Treasury Departments had apparently not been informed of his proclaimed new policies.
Bolton's extremist attack is also not consistent with the President's history in the travel and leisure industry, including two explorations by the Trump Organization of
golf course and hotel opportunities in Cuba. Notably Secretary of State Pompeo said nothing about travel earlier the same day while publicly savaging Cuba in the course of enabling Helms-Burton Titles III and IV. (This allows nuisance suits against European and Canadian businesses that use expropriated American and Cuban-American property.)
Bolton and Claver-Carone may have seen the eve of release of the Mueller report as a good moment to take advantage of chaos and preoccupation in the White House to slip in a maximum assault or at least to float a balloon. The question is how much opposition now wells up elsewhere in the Administration and from Congress, as well as from cruise companies, air lines, travel agents, tour operators and the grass roots of people who have been or expected to go to Cuba.
, "Cuba Is a Problem That Trump Is Making Worse:The administration’s new sanctions are likely to backfire.
When will restrictions start?
Bolton left wiggle-room when he spoke of "restricting" not "prohibiting" travel. It has been reported that President Trump is not happy with Bolton's role in frustrating this negotiations with Kim Jong Un. Trump might also become upset when he discovers that Bolton misled him about how quick and easy it would be to overthrow the Venezuelan government.
With the legitimacy of his rule under intense and widespread attack as a result of Mueller's findings, the President may not want to gratuitously alienate agricultural exporters or retirees who planned to visit Cuba on their next cruise. So far the anti-Cuba lobby in Congress has applauded the use of Title III but not spoken out for new restrictions on travel.
If Bolton's speech was more than political rhetoric designed for the 2020 election, or to build support against impeachment, how much time do we have left to more of less freely and legally visit Cuba? The
provided no details
on what he said were new limits on U.S. citizens’ travel there. A Treasury Department official said
regulations would be issued 'in the coming months'.
Unless they simple mindedly block all non-family travel, there will be long discussion between multiple government agencies of what will be permitted and how it will be monitored and enforced. If specific licenses are reinstituted, new staff must be hired to implement them. (
There are no changes of travel regulations on May 2d! That date only applies to use of Title III and IV of Helms Burton.)
Should you book a new trip?
In the past, when the Trump Administration made regulatory changes it honored commitments already made as long as the traveler had evidence of at least partial payment. So buy your air tickets and send deposits sooner rather than later. Should the shutdown be abrupt and unforgiving, in most instances you should be able to obtain a refund, but ask to be sure.
I am posting my own evolving understanding of the licensing situation
Statements by others are
How can we prevent this travesty?
Most importantly don't give up and passively wait to see what happens. We have allies in Congress. The election nineteen months from now could with bipartisan support end all restrictions on travel and agricultural sales--and even lead to repeal of the embargo.
In the meantime, the tried but true should be followed:
1) Write an op ed or a letter to the editor that builds on your personal experience to make the case against travel restrictions.
2) Contact the local office of your Representative and Senators. See if they are doing public events or fund raisers
during this district work week (a.k.a. recess) where you can ask a question or have a personal conversation. Will they speak to the White House about Bolton's effort to forbid trips and sponsor legislation to end all travel restrictions?
3) If you are a travel professional, ask ASTA, NTA, USTOA, TPOC, tour operators, air lines, cruise lines, etc. how they are defending your shared business interests?
4) If you are an educator, ask IIE, NAFSA, ETC, NAS, SSRC, LASA, other academic associations and your own institution how they plan to protect educational and professional exchange from renewed political interference.
5) Promote our new petition.
Please share with all your lists.
Petition: Reject John Bolton's Attack on Travel and Remittances
I am an American who went to Cuba for people to people, family, academic, professional, athletic or cultural exchange or for other purposeful reasons, or plans to.
I call upon President Trump as well as my Senators and Representative to oppose the attempt by hard liners in the National Security Council to return to counterproductive US government limits on travel and remittances.
I also urge restoration of full consular authority and the provision of five year multi-entry visas by both countries.