Trump administration orders Marriott to shutter Cuba hotel by end of August

The U.S. Department of Treasury ordered Marriott to shut down its Four Points Sheraton hotel in Havana, Cuba, by Aug. 31, amid continuing tensions between the two nations. The company will also not be allowed to open other planned hotels.

Marriott first entered Cuba in 2016 following permission from the U.S. government, and its license was both reviewed and renewed in 2018.

“We have recently received notice that the government-issued license will not be renewed, forcing Marriott to cease operations in Cuba,” according to a statement from the company provided by spokesperson Brendan McManus. “Marriott continues to believe that Cuba is a destination that travelers, including Americans, want to visit. Marriott looks forward to reopening in Cuba if and when the U.S. government gives us permission to do business there again.”

The Trump administration has dramatically restricted travel and business ties with Cuba, reversing the Obama administration’s efforts to thaw diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana. In 2017, Trump banned U.S. citizens from doing business with entities deemed to have links to Cuban military or security agencies. That list included stores, hotels and even rum makers frequented by Americans. 

Confusion swirled after the Trump administration ended the most popular forms of U.S. travel to Cuba last year, banning cruise ships and a heavily used category of educational travel in an attempt to cut off cash to the island’s communist government. The Treasury Department has a detailed FAQ page online to help break down what travelers need to know about the ban.

The Trump administration also banned U.S. flights to all Cuban cities last year, except Havana, rolling back the Obama-era easing of relations.

Travelers can still visit Cuba, albeit subject to specific conditions, including:

  • Family visits

  • Official government business

  • Journalistic activity

  • Professional research and meetings

  • Educational activities (like those from U.S. academic institutions and secondary schools)

  • Religious activities

  • Support for the Cuban people

  • Humanitarian projects

“The important thing to know about these changes is that there is still a way to travel legally to Cuba and that is under ‘support for the Cuban people,’” Sarah Arizaga, manager the of Cuban Adventures tour agency U.S. office, told USA TODAY last year. The company’s tours were already compliant with the condition about support for the Cuban people since President Donald Trump’s 2017 changes to Cuba travel, when the administration eliminated individual people-to-people travel.

The “people-to-people” rule was created under the Obama administration and let visitors travel to Cuba with a visa. This was in addition to letting cruise ships and airlines journey there. 

In 2014, then-President Barack Obama took the historic move of ending 50 years of diplomatic isolation with its Cold War foe. His administration re-established embassies in Havana and Washington and made it easier for Americans to visit the island, among other steps. 

But Trump has made good on campaign promises to roll back that policy, and Friday’s step was additional evidence of that. The move may be particularly popular with Florida’s Cuban and Venezuelan populations, which account for more than 1.5 million of the state’s 21 million residents. 

Florida will be pivotal in determining the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. No Republican presidential candidate has won the White House in nearly a century without carrying Florida – a state also known for its razor-thin election margins.

“The Trump administration viewed the operation by Marriott similar to how it viewed cruise ship operations – an example of Obama administration policy failure to change Cuba, rather than provide Cuba with additional revenues, which are used to forestall necessary commercial and economic changes vital to the country,” said John S. Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, which is based in New York.

Contributing: Jayme Deerwester, USA TODAY; The Associated Press: Matthew Lee and Michael Weissenstein; Weissenstein reported from Havana. The Associated Press writers Andrea Rodriguez in Havana; Adriana Gomez-Licon in Miami and Ben Fox in Washington also contributed to this report. 

Travel details: How can you still go to Cuba despite new U.S. travel restrictions?

What happened to flights? Trump administration bans US flights to all Cuban cites except Havana

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Cuba travel: Trump administration orders Marriott shutter Havana hotel

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