What seemed like an opening might only have been a window — one that shuts.
After decades of anticipation, U.S. travelers were given new freedom to visit Cuba under the Obama administration in 2014. Now those allowances might be curtailed, with President Trump planning an announcement on Friday in Miami. Sources expect "tightening restrictions on travel and trade."
Visits to Cuba from the U.S. are confusing by law and rather straightforward in practice. According to the American Embassy in Cuba: "Travel to Cuba for tourist activities remains prohibited by statute. However, the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has issued general licenses for 12 categories of travel. Individuals who meet the regulatory conditions of the general license they seek to travel under do not need to apply for an additional license from OFAC to travel to Cuba." Those 12 categories range from "family visits" to "official business of the U.S. government" and "public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions" — plus the all-purpose "support for the Cuban people." Chances are, you'll find one you like.
It's true that airlines — one bellwether for judging commercial interest — overestimated: in March, Frontier and Fort Lauderdale-based Silver Airways joined American and JetBlue in reducing or curtailing flights to Cuba. And several U.S. politicians, led by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, are lobbying hard to go back to stricter prohibitions, aimed at hobbling the Communist country close to our shore. According to NPR, "The administration is considering stepped up policing to discourage pleasure travel and limiting visitors to one trip per year."
For those with personal ties to the Cuban community, the issue is often binary. For every Rubio, there's probably a Cuban-American who'd like to be free to visit his family as he likes, without the government restricting his schedule. For travelers, though, it's an unmitigated loss ... if one that forces us to remember that travelers from around the world have visited the island without consequence for years. At least we'll still get to see this part of the world through their Instagram feeds — if not with our own eyes.