MIAMI - President Trump unveiled plans Friday to re-institute travel and business restrictions with Cuba, reversing yet another Obama administration policy.
"A free Cuba is what we will soon achieve," Trump declared after telling the crowd he was happy to be back with all his friends in 'Little Havana.'
The president added that his administration will expose the crimes of the Castro regime. He challenged the communist government of Raul Castro to negotiate a better deal for Cubans and Cuban-Americans.
"I am cancelling the last administration's completely one-sided deal with Cuba," Trump proclaimed.
Cuba responded to the announcement Friday evening, saying it rejects Trump's "hostile rhetoric" and is willing to continue "respectful dialogue" with the U.S.
Announcing the rollback of President Barack Obama's diplomatic opening during a speech in Miami, Trump said Cuba had secured far too many concessions from the U.S. in the "misguided" deal but "now those days are over." He said penalties on Cuba would remain in place until its government releases political prisoners, stops abusing dissidents and respects freedom of expression.
As he spoke, The White House released a fact sheet on the key policy changes, which included enhancing restrictions to better enforce the ban on U.S. tourism to Cuba.
"The self-directed, individual travel permitted by the Obama administration will be prohibited," according to the release.
Though Trump's announcement stops short of a full reversal of the Cuba rapprochement, it targets the travel and economic engagement between the countries that has blossomed in the short time since relations were restored. The goal is to halt the flow of U.S. cash to the country's military and security services in a bid to increase pressure on Cuba's government.
Embassies in Havana and Washington will remain open. U.S. airlines and cruise ships will still be allowed to serve the island 90 miles south of Florida. The "wet foot, dry foot" policy, which once let most Cuban migrants stay if they made it to U.S. soil but was terminated under Obama, will remain terminated. Remittances to Cuba won't be cut off.
But individual "people-to-people" trips by Americans to Cuba, allowed by Obama for the first time in decades, will again be prohibited. And the U.S. government will police other such trips to ensure there's a tour group representative along making sure travelers are pursuing a "full-time schedule of educational exchange activities."
Trump described his move as an effort to ramp up pressure to create a "free Cuba" after more than half a century of communism.
"I do believe that end is in the very near future," he said.
Before the president took the stage, Sen. Marco Rubio made clear his support for the changes and said how many will characterize it as a way to punish the Cuba regime but it will also empower the people of Cuba.
"Whether its 6 months or 6 years, Cuba will be free," Rubio declared. The Florida senator added that he believes when the "enslaved island" is free, people and history will say one key moment happened on this day.
Florida Governor Rick Scott followed Rubio by saying that President Obama's policy was a "capitulation" but Trump's "will stand for freedom."
Vice President Pence introduced the president and added that the U.S. is renewing its commitment to freedom in this hemisphere.
"America stands with the persecuted, the oppressed, and the exploited in Cuba," Pence exclaimed.
"Cuba si, Castro no," the crowd chanted after Pence.
Before touching on Cuba, Trump began his speech by discussing Otto Warmbier's return to the U.S. from North Korea. He also touched on the shooting earlier this week at a GOP Congressional baseball team practice.
He added that because of Congressman Steve Scalise, who remains in critical condition from injuries he suffered in the shooting, "our country will perhaps become closer, more unified, so important."
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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