President Donald Trump will announce curbs on US firms doing business with the Cuban military and tighter rules on travel to the island. Many Cubans are already crestfallen at the setback in detente even before it becomes official.

Trump's measures stop well short of upending Obama-era policies, which sought to end decades of isolation that did little to dislodge Fidel and Raul Castro's regime.
Trump's measures stop well short of upending Obama-era policies, which sought to end decades of isolation that did little to dislodge Fidel and Raul Castro's regime. (TRT World and Agencies)

President Donald Trump will announce plans to tighten restrictions on Americans travelling to Cuba and clamp down on US business dealings with the island's military in a visit to Miami on Friday.

The move rolls back parts of former President Barack Obama's historic opening to America's former Cold War foe.

Visiting the home of many Cuban exiles in the United States, Trump will issue a presidential directive to reverse some of the loosened regulations that Obama introduced after a 2014 breakthrough with Havana to improve ties for the first time in decades.

TRT World's Harry Horton has more on the story from Washington DC.

Trump will outline stricter enforcement of a long-time ban on Americans going to Cuba as tourists and will seek to prevent US dollars from being used to fund what the new US administration sees as a repressive military-dominated government.

But, facing pressure from US business and some of his fellow Republicans to avoid turning back the clock completely in relations with communist-ruled Cuba, he also will leave intact many of Obama's steps toward normalisation.

Cubans crestfallen at Trump's move against detente

Cubans said they were crestfallen to be returning to an era of frostier relations with the US as the news spread that Trump was set to roll back Obama's opening to Cuba.

"It hurts to be going backwards. To roll back the engagement will only manage to isolate us from the world," said Havana resident Marta Deus, who will try to tune into Trump's speech in Miami.

Deus recently set up an accountancy firm and courier service, to cater to a private sector that has flourished since Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro began to normalise relations.

"We need clients, business, we need the economy to move and by isolating Cuba, they will only manage to hurt many Cuban families and force companies to close," she said.

The 2014 deal sparked widespread euphoria in Cuba and raised hopes for an improvement in its ailing economy.

An increased arrival of US tourists thanks to eased restrictions fuelled a boom in tourism, especially in Havana, creating demand for more BnBs, restaurants, taxis and tour guides in the fledgling private sector.

Human rights as rationale for the roll back

Critics say the opening failed to improve rights on the island. Trump will justify his partial reversal of Obama's measures to a large extent on those grounds, White House officials said.

Some Cuban dissidents back his tougher stance, saying repression has worsened since the detente.

Cuban authorities have stepped up their detentions of activists, often confiscating their telephones and laptops, but they have also been coming down with a heavy hand on self- employed Cubans who appear to be empowering themselves.

"When the Obama administration stopped condemning human rights violations in Cuba, the regime here said 'look we can do this and nothing happens, so we can continue repressing more forcefully'," said Jose Daniel Ferrer, who leads the Patriotic Union of Cuba, the country's largest dissident group.

Ferrer said his group had 53 activists currently imprisoned due to their political views.

Roll back likely to impact citizens more than government

Other dissidents agree repression has worsened but say rolling back the detente, which will hurt ordinary Cubans, is not the solution.

"It will probably not have any benefit in terms of human rights," said Eliecer Avila, the leader of the opposition youth group Somos Mas.

The Cuban government has withstood the US trade embargo for more than a half century and will not make any political concessions to the United States due to economic pressure, said Carlos Alzugaray, a retired Cuban diplomat.

"I am concerned it will affect the private sector quite a bit and much more than the Cuban government," he said.

This new setback to the Cuban economy will come at a time when it is already wrestling with falling oil shipments from crisis-stricken ally Venezuela and a decline in exports.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies