How will President Trump’s restrictions affect Havana?

World Today

US-CUBA-DIPLOMACY-TRADE-TRUMPTrump on Friday vowed to roll back his predecessor Barack Obama’s deal re-opening trade ties with Havana, in favor of measures to support the Cuban people against what he called their “cruel and brutal” regime. (AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN)

With the recent announcement by President Donald Trump of changes in U.S. policy toward Cuba, some Cubans wonder how they will affect the economy, especially in the tourism sector.

One day after U.S. President Trump unveiled new restrictions on travel and business in Cuba – reversing some Obama-era Cuba policies. Cubans are still optimistic.

“We will continue the fight, until the end. The Americans have helped the economy somewhat but it isn’t everything because we get tourists from many countries, not just the U.S., “Omara Mata, Owner of Casa Victor Restaurant said.

Omara has been serving tourists in her private restaurant for the last five years. She believes U.S. citizens are the ones who have more to lose.

“I have no worries because we have had so many years of embargoes and things. The only thing the President is doing is taking away the supposed freedoms the American people have,” Mata added.

The new policy says Americans will no longer be able to plan their own Cuba trip under a people-to-people exchange license. Those who go as part of an educational tour will be subject to strict new rules and audits.

President Trump says this is to ensure that U.S. visitor money is not going towards the Cuban military.

But one Cuban economist says small Cuban businesses have already had a tradition of supplying tourism services.

“U.S. tourist visit the private restaurants, they never eat at government- owned restaurants. Many who come use the old nostalgic private cars as transportation. This is already happening,” Omar Everleny Perez, Cuban Economist said.

In the first five months of 2017, the number of visitors to Cuba from the U.S. was roughly the same number as for most of 2016. But Everleny-Perez says this is still just a fraction of the four million tourist who visited the island overall.

“The U.S. tourism has been important for Cuba not decisive the 285 thousand tourists that came in 2016 is only five percent of the tourism that comes to Cuba. We are not talking about Canada which is 40 percent.”

In a written statement, published on Friday night, the Cuban government called President Trump’s announcement a step back in relations. But reiterated their willingness to continue a “respectful and cooperative dialogue.”

Whether or not U.S. citizens will continue to visit the island under tighter restrictions will only be seen in the future. But today what is clear is the Cuban people’s unwavering sense of perseverance.

Fernando Menendez discusses US-Cuba relations

CGTN’s Susan Roberts discusses the complex relationship between the U.S. and Cuba with Fernando Menendez. Menendez has spent years studying Cuba’s economy, political history and ties to the U-S. He’s a Senior Fellow for Strategic Initiatives at the Center for a Secure Free Society.