Trump reversal threatens US-Cuba relations

US President expected to undo work of Barack Obama and tighten trade and travel restrictions

US Cuba flags
(Image credit: Rhona Wise/AFP/Getty Images)

Donald Trump is expected to announce a shift in his administration's relationship with Cuba tomorrow and tighten restrictions on travel and trade that were loosened under Barack Obama, a congressional source told NPR.

Another official told the Associated Press the US embassy in Havana will remain open but trade with any Cuban entity linked to the military will be banned.

In addition, the US President is also expected to restrict permission for Americans to visit the island, The Guardian says.

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"It would represent a throwback to policies that date to the Cold War," the LA Times reports.

Relations between the two countries were frozen following the communist revolution of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara on 1961. The US severed diplomatic ties and imposed a trade embargo that lasted until 2014, when Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro, the brother of Fidel, agreed a historic deal to end the rift.

The White House has so far refused to confirm or deny reports it will undo this work.

Speaking in Washington this week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Obama's reforms effectively removed pressure on the Cuban regime to alter its behaviour.

"Cuba has failed to improve its own human rights record, political opponents continue to be imprisoned, dissidents continue to be jailed, women continue to be harassed," he said.

Tillerson added that if Washington and Havana were to "sustain the sunny side of this relationship, Cuba must – absolutely must – begin to address its human rights challenges".

Polls suggest a majority of Americans support greater engagement with Cuba, says NPR.

Carlos Gutierrez, who served as commerce secretary under former President George W Bush, told the news site: "This decision will not play well anywhere, except for in those very cloistered spots in South Florida."

It will also be highly controversial among businesses, the LA Times warns.

"It could dull a boom in tourism by Americans to Cuba and hurt a burgeoning cottage industry of private enterprise on the socialist-ruled island," it says. "It could also allow Russia and China to more easily step in to fill the void."

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