In a much heralded policy speech, on June 16 in Miami, U.S. strongman Donald Trump is expected to roll back President Obama’s relaxation of travel restrictions on Americans visiting Cuba. Trump’s new policy will, once again, require Americans traveling to Cuba to obtain special licenses for certain U.S. government categories. Without the license, Americans visiting Cuba will be in violation of federal law.
Trump’s re-imposition of the arcane licensing regime has nothing to to with advancing the “human rights” of Cuban citizens or defending Cuban dissidents. If that were the case, Trump would not have genuflected to the King of Saudi Arabia or presidents of Egypt and the Philippines, three of the worst human rights violators in the world today.
Trump’s Cold War-era policy toward Cuba is meant to limit Americans traveling to Cuba and staying at hotels that are partially owned by the Cuban government. Trump is aligning his policy with those of Cubano gusanos like Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who continues to pander to fellow right-wing Cuban elements in Miami’s Little Havana.
Trump is re-imposing sanctions on travel to Cuba to further the business interests of his Trump Organization, which wants a piece of the hotel and real estate action in Cuba. By maintaining the economic blockade of Cuba, which includes levying harsh fines on foreign companies doing business in Cuba, Trump is using the White House to advance his own development plans for the island.
It is no coincidence that Trump’s sanctions on Cuba travel comes a month after the meeting of SAHIC (Latin American Hotel and Tourism Investment Conferences) Cuba 2017, the premier conference in Havana designed to promote the hotel, tourism, and real estate businesses in Cuba. The conference brought the titans of the hotel industry to Havana, including senior executives from the Wyndham Hotel Group, Starwood-Sheraton, Hyatt, RCI, Hilton, Marriott International, Archipelago International, Choice, International Hotels Group, Meliá Hotels International, Iberostar Hotels & Resorts, and JLL Hotels & Hospitality Group. All the major players in the international hotel business, some 200 chains, were in Havana. There was one glaring exception. There was no official representative from the Trump Organization.
Trump weighed heavily on the Havana conference participants. One session was titled “The Trump Effect.”
The way Trump sees it, by limiting travel to Cuba by Americans he can squeeze the balls of the Cuban government and his competitors until the Havana authorities disinvest in hotel joint ventures, thus allowing the Trump Organization to buy controlling stakes in the hotels. Trump has no interest in human rights in Cuba or votes from Miami (Hillary Clinton won the county by 30 points, 64 to 34 percent for Trump). Trump also has no hope of becoming more popular in south Florida, where his popularity is at 38 percent and plummeting rapidly.
As with anything, Trump’s priority is Donald Trump and his business empire. Trump is using the powers of the presidency to exact business concessions from Cuba, which is currently one of the hottest tourism destinations in the world. Trump will not stand by as competitors Marriott, Hyatt, and Hilton engage in joint hotel ventures with Raul Castro’s government.
The way Trump and his family of grifters see it, Americans will be able to travel freely to Cuba when, and only when, Trump and mid-range Scion hotels, as well as Trump golf courses and condominiums, beat out the competition in having the heaviest presence in Cuba. Until then, any American traveling to Cuba without a special license and who stays at a Marriott or Hilton will face heavy fines and possible prison for sanctions violations. Many Americans, including Republican businessmen in the Midwest farm states eager to sell commodities to Cuba, will not like Trump’s sanctions, but they should have thought of that before they voted for an extortionist to be their president.
Trump’s renewed travel sanctions will hit hard U.S. airlines and cruise ship operators that now provide service to Cuba. That will cost south Florida jobs. Hotel chains like Starwood, which received a special U.S. Treasury Department license to open a Four Points Sheraton in Havana, may be forced to sell off their Cuban properties. Ceasing AirBnB’s Cuba operations will have a devastating effect on Cuban tourism entrepreneurs.
Trump’s use of the presidency to further his own business empire regarding Cuba travel and tourism represents yet another violation of the emoluments ban in the Constitution. The attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia, as well as 200 Democratic members of Congress, are filing lawsuits against Trump for violation of the emoluments clause. The violation is an impeachable offense and the sooner the Congress exercises their duty to impeach, try in the Senate, and remove the grifter-in-chief from the presidency, the better off the United States, Cuba, and the rest of the world will be.
Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.
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Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and nationally-distributed columnist. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).