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In a Pre-Election Gambit, the Trump Administration Announces New Travel Bans for Cuba | Frommer's Del Pixel/Shutterstock

In a Pre-Election Gambit, the Trump Administration Announces New Travel Bans for Cuba

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense," the Mad Hatter told Alice in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. "Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn't. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn't be. And what it wouldn't be, it would. You see?”

That mercurial milliner's words apply to this week's current events, which saw the announcement of a new curtailment of travel—during a time when hardly anyone is traveling—to a place hardly any Americans visit, because of prior travel bans.

The details: The U.S. State Department announced the creation of what it's calling the Cuba Prohibited Accommodations (CPA) List, which covers 433 hotels that Americans will now be forbidden from patronizing.

Why? These properties are "owned or controlled by the Cuban regime or certain well-connected insiders," writes the State Department, noting that the profits "disproportionately benefit the Cuban government, all at the expense of the Cuban people, who continue to face repression at the hands of the regime." 

Instead of sleeping at the hotels, travelers are encouraged to stay at casas particulares, which are Airbnb-like accommodations (many of which are actually listed on home-sharing sites) in private residences that are usually quite modest.

The State Department also further limited the purposes for which one can go to Cuba legally. Now the government will not grant permission for those who might be "attending or organizing certain professional meetings or conferences in Cuba; and participating in and organizing certain public performances, clinics, workshops, competitions, and exhibitions in Cuba."

The final blow to Cuban tourism? Americans will no longer be able to bring back Cuban cigars, a cherished souvenir.

All of these moves will limit drastically the number of Americans who can go to Cuba, which could, in turn, limit airline capacity and depress our travel industry further.

John Kavulich, president of the U.S.–Cuba Trade and Economic Council in New York, told USA Today that the loss of lodgings for Americans will devastate the number of American visits and could cause the airlines serving Cuba to slash daily flights even further. He also suggested that the new regulation might force Cuban hotel owners—who are still welcoming tourists from every other naton, by the way—to sell to foreign chains.

Why is the Trump Administration spending its energy on this now, in the midst of a pandemic that has halted almost all travel from the U.S. to the Caribbean as a whole?

The formal reason was to commemorate the 59th anniversary of the unsuccessful invasion of the Bay of Pigs in 1961.

The real reason?

You may not have heard, but there's going to be an election in a bit over a month, and Florida is considered to be a swing state. The support of the expat Cuban population is so coveted a prize that it seems that the Trump Administration is willing to make a lot of noise about stopping Americans from going to a place they're not going anyway.

To us, the move is bald pandering, and it's a return to the same misguided travel bans that have failed to topple the Castro regime for over half a century.

Most importantly, this move is anti-freedom. Americans should have the right to travel to any country that isn't at war with the United States.

When will politicians stop playing politics with the freedoms of Americans?