Cubans disappointed by new U.S. trade and travel sanctions_World_Asia Pacific Daily

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Cubans disappointed by new U.S. trade and travel sanctions

World2017-11-10

On the streets of Havana Thursday Cubans talked about the recent set of measures announced by U.S. President Donald Trump's administration that crack down on travel and trade with the Caribbean island. Headlines of Cuban media defined the scope of these regulations, as well as Havana's reaction to this evident setback in bilateral relations, which many locals think is the return to the worst times of the Cold War. "It's really been a setback since President Trump came to power. We had advanced a lot with Obama and there were good projections, but since the beginning of this year practically everything has rolled back," Elier Gonzalez, a 33-year-old taxi driver said. Like Gonzalez, many Cubans believe the new travel regulations will significantly reduce the flow of American visitors to the island, a figure that increased substantially in the last two years. Washington's new regulations prohibit individual visits by U.S. citizens to the island under the 12 categories of "people-to-people" exchanges. Also the Treasury Department imposed conditions on educational and academic trips, and in both cases they will have to be done under U.S. supervision. "There was a lot of American tourism before Trump and now with these new regulations it will be reduced to the minimum. This hurts the Cuban state, but also private workers," said Lucia Vasallo, a handicraft vendor in Old Havana. Although the new regulations seek to "empower" the Cuban private sector, many self-employed people here believe that in the long run they will be greatly affected by these rules. "There is fear or ignorance about what is legal or not about traveling to Cuba because of the complexity of these measures and they will undoubtedly cause serious economic damage," Barbara Rodriguez, owner of a cafeteria in the western Havana neighborhood of Miramar said. According to official data, some 285,000 Americans visited Cuba in 2016 and they will surpass 400,000 this year. "I had several groups of Americans for this month and December and some of them have canceled their reservations. It's really frustrating and difficult for us," said Margot Ruiz, who rents her apartment to tourists in Havana. The new regulations which came into effect Thursday prohibit U.S. companies from having commercial exchanges with 179 Cuban holdings and firms with links to armed forces, security or intelligence agencies. Americans will be prohibited from staying at any of 83 state-owned hotels operated by the Gaviota tourism group, which is part of the military's giant holding company, GAESA. Also, the ban places dozens of other businesses and some products, such as soft drinks and rum, beyond the reach of American consumers. "It's really ridiculous that the U.S. government tells its citizens what soda or rum brand they can drink or not in Cuba. There's no way they can verify that," said Juan Valdes, a state worker. This is coupled with a travel warning issued earlier in September by the U.S. State Department, urging Americans not to visit Cuba due to alleged sonic attacks against U.S. diplomatic personnel there. Motivated largely by the thaw between the two countries in 2015, thousands of Cubans started their own private businesses. Today, there are over 21,000 rental houses and apartments throughout the country, as well as some 2,000 private restaurants. "The only thing that remains is for Trump to end diplomatic relations with Cuba. Now we are worse than many years ago," said Valdes. (ASIA PACIFIC DAILY)

On the streets of Havana Thursday Cubans talked about the recent set of measures announced by U.S. President Donald Trump's administration that crack down on travel and trade with the Caribbean island.

Headlines of Cuban media defined the scope of these regulations, as well as Havana's reaction to this evident setback in bilateral relations, which many locals think is the return to the worst times of the Cold War.

"It's really been a setback since President Trump came to power. We had advanced a lot with Obama and there were good projections, but since the beginning of this year practically everything has rolled back," Elier Gonzalez, a 33-year-old taxi driver said.

Like Gonzalez, many Cubans believe the new travel regulations will significantly reduce the flow of American visitors to the island, a figure that increased substantially in the last two years.

Washington's new regulations prohibit individual visits by U.S. citizens to the island under the 12 categories of "people-to-people" exchanges.

Also the Treasury Department imposed conditions on educational and academic trips, and in both cases they will have to be done under U.S. supervision.

"There was a lot of American tourism before Trump and now with these new regulations it will be reduced to the minimum. This hurts the Cuban state, but also private workers," said Lucia Vasallo, a handicraft vendor in Old Havana.

Although the new regulations seek to "empower" the Cuban private sector, many self-employed people here believe that in the long run they will be greatly affected by these rules.

"There is fear or ignorance about what is legal or not about traveling to Cuba because of the complexity of these measures and they will undoubtedly cause serious economic damage," Barbara Rodriguez, owner of a cafeteria in the western Havana neighborhood of Miramar said.

According to official data, some 285,000 Americans visited Cuba in 2016 and they will surpass 400,000 this year.

"I had several groups of Americans for this month and December and some of them have canceled their reservations. It's really frustrating and difficult for us," said Margot Ruiz, who rents her apartment to tourists in Havana.

The new regulations which came into effect Thursday prohibit U.S. companies from having commercial exchanges with 179 Cuban holdings and firms with links to armed forces, security or intelligence agencies.

Americans will be prohibited from staying at any of 83 state-owned hotels operated by the Gaviota tourism group, which is part of the military's giant holding company, GAESA.

Also, the ban places dozens of other businesses and some products, such as soft drinks and rum, beyond the reach of American consumers.

"It's really ridiculous that the U.S. government tells its citizens what soda or rum brand they can drink or not in Cuba. There's no way they can verify that," said Juan Valdes, a state worker.

This is coupled with a travel warning issued earlier in September by the U.S. State Department, urging Americans not to visit Cuba due to alleged sonic attacks against U.S. diplomatic personnel there.

Motivated largely by the thaw between the two countries in 2015, thousands of Cubans started their own private businesses. Today, there are over 21,000 rental houses and apartments throughout the country, as well as some 2,000 private restaurants.

"The only thing that remains is for Trump to end diplomatic relations with Cuba. Now we are worse than many years ago," said Valdes.

(ASIA PACIFIC DAILY)

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