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October 18, 2017
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What US president will say today

US President Donald Trump will today tighten rules on US citizens travelling to Cuba and significantly restrict US companies from doing business with Cuban enterprises controlled by the military, according to US officials who have seen a draft presidential memorandum.

Trump will lay out his new Cuba policy in a speech in Miami that will roll back parts of Barack Obama’s opening to the Communist-ruled island after a 2014 diplomatic breakthrough between the two former Cold War foes.

Taking a tougher approach against Cuba after promising to do so during the presidential campaign, Trump will make clear that a ban on US tourism to Cuba remains in effect and his administration will beef up enforcement of travel rules under authorised categories, the officials said.

The new limits on US business deals will target the Armed Forces Business Enterprises Group (GAESA), a conglomerate involved in all sectors of the economy, including hotels, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

It was unclear, however, whether the new rules would bar American visitors from spending money in state-run hotels and restaurants. Details will depend on regulations to be written in coming months by the US Commerce and Treasury Departments, which will be tasked with turning the presidential memorandum into policy.

But even as he curbs Obama’s détente with Cuba, Trump will stop short of closing embassies or breaking off diplomatic relations restored in 2015 after more than five decades of hostility, US officials said. He will also leave in place some other tangible changes made by his Democratic predecessor, including the resumption of direct US-Cuba commercial flights, though Trump’s more restrictive policy seems certain to dampen new economic ties overall.

Trump will justify his partial reversal of Obama’s measures to a large extent on human rights grounds. He will issue the memorandum when he delivers his speech at the Manuel Artime Theater in Miami’s Little Havana district, the heart of the Cuban-US and Cuban exile community. The venue is named after a leader of the failed US-backed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961 against Fidel Castro’s revolutionary government.

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