Trump Answers Call From Hard-Liners On Cuba President Trump is imposing new restrictions on travel and trade with Cuba. Individual travelers may have to join tour groups. And business ties with the Cuban military will be sharply curtailed.

Trump Adopts Harder Line On Cuba

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President Trump is ordering new restrictions on Americans traveling or doing business in Cuba. That's a reversal from his predecessor Barack Obama who tried to promote more engagement with the island after decades of diplomatic isolation. The new policy fulfills a promise Trump made to conservative Cuban exiles in last year's presidential election. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: The venue for Trump's announcement speaks volumes about America's more-than-a-half-century effort to topple the Castro regime. Trump spoke in a sweltering Miami theater named for Manuel Artime, a leader of the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I am so thrilled to be back here with all of my friends in Little Havana.


HORSLEY: Trump won the endorsement of Bay of Pigs veterans in the final days of last year's presidential campaign, and he credits his narrow victory in Florida to support from the most conservative elements of the Cuban-American community.


TRUMP: You went out, and you voted. And here I am, like I promised...


TRUMP: ...Like I promised.

HORSLEY: Polls show even in South Florida, most Cuban-Americans would like to see more contact with Cuba, not less. But that's not the audience Trump was speaking to. His listeners cheered the president when he announced a change in course.


TRUMP: Effective immediately, I am canceling the last administration's completely one-sided deal with Cuba.


HORSLEY: Trump is not completely reversing Obama's Cuba initiatives. The U.S. Embassy in Havana will stay open, and commercial air service between the U.S. and Cuba will continue. But the president's order will make it harder for Americans to travel to Cuba on their own for so-called people-to-people visits.

Trump also plans to block most business transactions with companies connected to the Cuban military. That could have far-reaching effects since the military touches almost every corner of the Cuban economy, including many of the big tourist hotels.


TRUMP: We will very strongly restrict American dollars flowing to the military, security and intelligence services that are the core of the Castro regime. They will be restricted.

HORSLEY: Trump's new policy was heavily influenced by a handful of Cuban-American lawmakers, including Florida Senator Marco Rubio.


MARCO RUBIO: America is prepared to outstretch its hand and work with the people of Cuba. But we will not - we will not empower their oppressors.

HORSLEY: Even in a Republican Congress, though, Rubio's tough-on-Cuba stance represents a minority viewpoint. Most of his Senate colleagues support legislation that would make it easier for Americans to visit Cuba. The White House says Trump is open to relaxing the new restrictions once the Cuban government frees political prisoners and holds fair elections. But Geoff Thale of the Washington Office on Latin America questions the administration's tactics.

GEOFF THALE: A policy of isolation does nothing and has done nothing to improve the human rights situation.

HORSLEY: Supporters of the Obama-era Cuba policy concede. It has not produced the kind of economic and political reforms they'd like to see. But James Williams, who heads a lobbying group that promotes engagement with Cuba, says it's too soon to quit trying.

JAMES WILLIAMS: We've had this new policy for basically two years, and we've already seen significant changes. Is it as much as we'd like to see - absolutely not. But the idea of returning to something that we know does not work doesn't make any sense.

HORSLEY: Trump is not changing some elements of the Obama Cuba policy. Americans who make it to the island will still be allowed to come home carrying Cuban rum and cigars. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington.

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