Last year Larry Pascal, the Dallas-based head of Haynes and Boone‘s Americas practice, helped American Airlines begin offering flights from New York to Havana, connecting through Miami, now for under $1,100 round trip.
But President Donald Trump, if reports are accurate, may announce in Florida on Friday a significant tightening of the travel restrictions that his predecessor relaxed—making it more difficult for U.S. citizens to visit Cuba and potentially undoing some of Pascal’s work.
Pascal, a specialist in U.S.-Latin American cross-border deals, is sanguine. He said always knew a future administration could choose to reverse the Obama administration’s Cuba policy.
“It was clear to me that those reforms were of an administration nature. Any reforms that were more permanent would require an act of Congress. The Obama administration reforms were viewed as an initial step on a continuum,” Pascal said.
While regular tourism to Cuba remains formally barred, the Obama administration expanded travel from the United States to the tiny country for a wide range of reasons, including family visits, official U.S. government business, journalistic activities, professional meetings, religious actives, and, simply, support for the Cuban people.
And until Trump announces a change, Pascal emphasized, the fate of the rules is still unclear.
American Airlines began offering daily flights to Cuba last September, joining other airlines that took advantage of changes to the Cuba embargo first announced in March 2016. Haynes and Boone began advising American on expanding its operations in 2016, boasting in a press release that the airline’s investment in the Communist country “is arguably one of the most important by a U.S. company since the Cuban revolution.”
Pascal is diplomatic enough not to bad-mouth the current administration for potentially making Cuba business more difficult for his client and others. But he praised the Obama White House for relaxing restrictions. In particular, he cited the greater opportunities for “people to people exchanges” between Cubans and U.S. residents. That, he said, is “a good thing.”
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