President Trump just announced today that the U.S. will withdraw from the environmental Paris Agreement on Climate Change, signed by over 190 countries. We will now join that elite group of nations who rejected this agreement: Syria and Nicaragua. This brings to mind the U.N. Resolution to end the U.S. Embargo of Cuba, which for the past few decades has been supported every year by most the nations of the world, except for the U.S. and Israel. (Israel voted against it, even though individual Israelis have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Cuba.)
In many ways, it is admirable for our president to follow through on campaign promises—even if it was promised to a limited group that is only a small fraction of the general population. It has been reported that our president really enjoys checking a box on his list of campaign promises. However, extreme loyalty has its limits.
Apparently Cuba is next on the list. Last summer, President Trump promised a relatively small group of Cuban-Americans in Miami that he would reverse President Obama’s policies, which had resulted in the beginning of the Normalization process. I doubt that President Trump realized that the majority of Cuban-Americans in south Florida, and at least 80% of those younger than 50 years old, now want the path to Normalization to continue.
In the last couple of days, many articles have been written about this subject. As usual with articles about Cuba, projections and opinions are all over the place. Some writers expect nothing to change, while others predict a complete reversal of President Obama’s policies.
My prediction is that President Trump will propose a minor, almost insignificant change that will sound like a big deal. An example might be: limiting the amount of rum and cigars that American visitors can bring back. In the 90’s, the amount of each product brought back was limited. Under President Bush, it was completely prohibited (although most of us who traveled during that time ignored this restriction). Under President Obama, the government graciously allowed up to $100 worth of cigars and rum to be brought back legally, so we ignored the new regulation. I remember seeing Cuban cigar salesmen in Havana giving out hand-written receipts for “$100 for cigars” after selling products worth ten times that amount to American tourists. Later on in this process, the $100 “limit” was abolished, so that currently there is no limit to the value of products for personal consumption.
I suggest President Trump re-establish the limit of $100. That way he can fulfill his promise to the relatively small group of Cuban-Americans opposed to Normalization. He will be their hero. He can have a well-publicized press conference in Miami, making the announcement on live television that he has reversed yet another one of President Obama’s foolish policies. He can check the box on his list.
Meanwhile, visitors to Cuba will continue doing what they have done for decades—bring back whatever they want. It is even easier today, because customs forms have been eliminated in Miami and most other international airports. Cuba visitors no longer have to even declare what they are bringing back. It is such a relief to finally have a president who is looking out for the interests of EVERYBODY!
Even if President Trump cancels every element of President Obama’s path to Normalization, and if he goes beyond that and re-establishes policies of the Bush Administration around 2004—AMERICANS WILL STILL BE ABLE TO LEGALLY TRAVEL TO CUBA ON A GENERAL LICENSE! Just as today, they will have to affirm that they will not be tourists, and they have a purpose to visit Cuba. This is not difficult to do. Most tourists do not like being called “tourists” anyway. And if none of the other 12 categories of General Licensed Cuba travel fit their situations, the category “Support for the Cuban People” applies to EVERYBODY—even children! (Cuba is a wonderful, safe, kid-friendly place for family vacations.)
In conclusion, I am positive that President Trump will not do anything significant that will make travel to Cuba more difficult. Unfortunately, I also believe that anything he does will unnecessarily scare significant numbers of visitors into cancelling their Cuba travel plans. This will be compounded by yet another unexplainable factor: although Spirit, Frontier, and Silver Airlines have discontinued flights to Cuba, the remaining U.S. airlines providing direct service (American, Alaska, United, Southwest, Delta, and JetBlue) have Cuba Travel pages on their websites that are confusing, unhelpful, and hard-to-find. Customer service over the telephone is also unacceptable. The representatives are often confused and uninformed concerning regulations and policies regarding flights to Cuba. I am sure this results in many travelers becoming frustrated. Eventually many will change their plans.
Now, more than ever, is a great time to visit Cuba, especially for Americans. It will be nice for a change to get away and spend some time in a safe country with a stable federal government.