Q:

Can Americans travel to Cuba?

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Quick Answer

As of September 2017, Americans cannot travel to Cuba due to attacks on employees working at the United States Embassy in Cuba, which have caused the employees considerable injuries as a result. Due to the nature of the attacks and the perceived threat to the American public, the U.S. Department of State has banned travel to Cuba for all American citizens, unless they are authorized for entry into Cuba for specific, government-authorized purposes. At present, the 12 permissible reasons for travel to Cuba are foreign governments; official business of the United States and select intergovernmental organizations; family visits; professional research and professional meetings; journalism; activities of private foundations or research or educational institutions; religious activities; educational activities; workshops, clinics, public performances, athletic and other competitions and exhibitions; support for the Cuban people; exportation, importation or transmission of information or informational materials; and certain authorized export transactions, according to the U.S. Embassy in Cuba.

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Historic U.S.-Cuba Relations
In 2016, President Barack Obama lifted travel bans to give American citizens the right to visit Cuba. Prior to that time, however, travel to Cuba was prohibited for American citizens. That prohibition stemmed from tense relations between the two countries, which were largely influenced by politics. In 1959, Fidel Castro, a rebellion leader in Cuba, overthrew the existing regime in Havana, Cuba's capital city, which was backed by the U.S. Castro turned Cuba into a socialist state that was allied with Russia. Consequently, the U.S. imposed a successive series of sanctions that isolated Cuba economically and diplomatically. Starting in 2008, Obama worked with Cuban leader Raul Castro to improve U.S.-Cuba relations and foster better communication and peace between the two nations. Obama's campaign to improve U.S.-Cuba relations involved starting tourism and trade between the two nations. Initially, the Obama administration permitted American citizens to visit Cuba for religious and educational purposes. That restriction was later modified to allow more freedom of travel for U.S. citizens visiting Cuba. Starting in 2014, Obama and Raul Castro lessened trade and travel restrictions. As a result, more Americans were able to visit Cuba than in the past.

Trade and Travel Restrictions
The potential for Americans to visit Cuba was restricted when President Donald Trump took office in January 2017. Trump proposed a modification of Obama's plans that involved reinstating some trade and travel restrictions but continuing to foster diplomatic relations between the two countries. Americans continued to visit Cuba in the early spring of 2017. However, the revelation of an attack carried out against diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in Cuba in 2017 prompted the Trump administration and the State Department to ban Americans' travel to Cuba, unless it is carried out for specific, government-authorized purposes.

As a result of the attack on employees at the U.S. Embassy, many suffered significant health consequences as a result of the attack, including hearing loss, fatigue, headache, dizziness, cognitive impairments and sleeping difficulties. The perpetrators of the attack remain unknown and the Trump administration considers the attack a threat to all American citizens. Until the source of the attack is identified, travel to Cuba is restricted for most American citizens, as of November 2017.

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