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US president Donald Trump
US president Donald Trump

BEIJING, June 17 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Donald Trump's newly-announced tightening of restrictions on U.S. travel and trade to Cuba will spoil the normalization of U.S. ties with the Caribbean country and hit the economies of both countries, analysts and observers told Xinhua.

According to a statement by the White House, individual leisure travel, permitted by the Obama administration, will be prohibited. Americans will be required to visit Cuba with regulated tour groups.

Besides, U.S. individuals and companies will be banned from doing commerce with Cuban businesses owned by the Cuban military. Trump also reaffirmed a decades-old U.S. economic embargo against Cuba.

In response, the Cuban government said on Friday that Trump's announcement reverses the advances made in the past two years since Dec. 17, 2014, when presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama decided to restore diplomatic relations and begin normalizing bilateral ties.

REVERSAL OF PREDECESSOR'S POLICY HAMPERS DETENTE, ECONOMY

"Any strategy aimed at changing the political, economic and social system in Cuba, whether it aims to achieve it through pressure or imposition, or by using more subtle methods, is doomed to fail," Cuba said in a statement published in the state daily Granma.

Many Cubans have shown aversion to Trump's new clampdown on their country, calling it "a historic retreat" of U.S. foreign policy towards Cuba, as it would hit both the U.S. and the Cuban economy.

Trump's reversal of his predecessor Obama's Cuba policy will definitely harm the Cuban economy and the Cuban people, as tourism has been an important source for economic growth of the Caribbean Island nation, said Esteban Morales, a professor at the University of Havana.

Javier Casamayor, a tour guide with Cuba's travel agency Gaviota, agreed with Morales, saying that Trump's new restrictions would deal a blow to Cuba's tourism, and affect the U.S. economy due to the banning of U.S. investment in Cuba.

Meanwhile, Trump's tighter restrictions against Cuba have met with domestic rejection. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce issued a statement saying that Trump's moves "actually limit the possibility for positive change on the island."

Calling Cuba "a natural market for our nation's farmers and ranchers," Republican senator of Kansas Jerry Moran criticized Trump's new policy as it obstructs the export of their products and services to Cuba.

FULFILL CAMPAIGN PROMISE WITH POLITICAL DELIBERATION

Though Trump announced he was "canceling" the rapprochement with Cuba spearheaded by his predecessor, many moves laid out in Obama's previous policy towards Cuba will be maintained, such as a U.S. Embassy in Havana. U.S. airlines and cruise ships are also allowed to do business with Cuba.

Trump's rollback of Obama's Cuba policy partially made good on his campaign pledge last year to take a tougher line against the former Cold War rival, so as to align him with hawkish Cuban-American Republicans in the U.S. Congress.

But more importantly, as analysts pointed out, the president made such a decision out of calculated political deliberation with an eye on the U.S. stance on Latin-American countries and domestic partisan conflicts.

"The policy changes are made with strong political intentions, which is a calculated move in terms of Trump's foreign policy towards Latin America and U.S. partisan fights," said Diao Daming, a researcher at the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).

"Strict border control on Mexico and restrictions on trade with Cuba reflect that Trump has viewed Latin America as a burden, instead of a backyard, for the United States," Diao explained.

"So far, U.S. partisan fights have been increasingly fierce with the ongoing probe into 'the Russian-gate' controversy. In Trump's view, the only way for him to get through the test is to gain support from the Republican Party and maintain the unity of the GOP," he said.

That's because the Republican Party has long resorted to tough approaches to change Cuba for years, according to former Chinese Ambassador to Cuba Liu Yuqin.

Although Trump's policy changes would satisfy his voters in the short term, "it would bring practical hazards to the national interests of the United States in the long run," said Wang Peng, a researcher with the Institute of Latin American Studies at the CASS.

Signing a presidential directive on his new policy on Cuba, Trump has ordered the Treasury and Commerce Departments to begin a policy review within 30 days to design new regulations, but the process will probably take several months.

Cuba-U.S. relations will be developed with a number of twists and turns, due to the two countries' conflicts of interests, differences in political systems and historical grievances, according to Wang. "I'm afraid it will be in such a way for a long time," he said.


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