St. Pete mayor: Trump restricting Americans from traveling will hurt Cubans

Havana Cuba Jose Marti
Cuban flag and Che mural in Havana. Photo by Seán Kinane (May 2017).

President Donald Trump has announced new rules that will take away many of the freedoms Americans now enjoy to travel to Cuba; in Miami Friday afternoon, Trump said Americans can no longer travel as individuals in person-to-person exchanges to one of Florida’s nearest international neighbors.

This reverses a policy enacted by President Barack Obama.

Listen to part of Trump’s announcement:

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman says he’s disappointed in Trumps changes and thinks they will hurt the Cuban people.

Cuba cars
Old cars in Havana, Cuba. Photo by Seán Kinane (May 2017).

“I’m very disappointed. You know, I think that in the last couple years since the policies had been put in place by President Obama, I think there’s been a lot of positive changes that have happened in Cuba and I hate to see anything that could slow or cause those changes to regress.”

President Trump says that if fewer Americans travel there–for example: he’s cutting off individual, person to person trips–that this will hurt Cuba’s military. How do you think it’ll effect just everyday people in Cuba?

“Well, I find it hard to believe that there isn’t gonna be some impact on everyday people. I mean a lot of everyday Cubans work, whether it’s in hotels or in the hospitality industry there. So, less Americans traveling means less money being spent in those places where those folks work, which impacts, you know, their jobs. I don’t see how that’s a positive thing for the Cuban people.

“I’ve been there 3 times and my first time being back in, I believe it was August of 2015, and that’s why I say, I went in August, I went again in March of ’16 and I was there a few months ago and I’ve seen a difference each time; a much more open community in Havana each time up in there since, you know, the ability to travel was opened.”

People who want to travel to Cuba for person-to-person exchange will now only be able to go in pre-approved groups. Trump’s policy will still let American travelers to Cuba bring back souvenirs like Cuban rum and cigars. Cruise ships and airlines – like Southwest’s daily round-trip flight from Tampa to Havana – will still be able to go from the U.S. to Cuba, though it is yet to be seen whether fewer travelers will lead to canceled flights.

President Trump is delivering on a campaign promise to significantly alter, if not abrogate, the Obama administration’s diplomatic opening to longtime foe Cuba. According to the White House, Trump wants to cut off the flow of American cash to Cuba’s military and security services. But he’s leaving intact Obama’s restoration of diplomatic relations with Havana.

Here’s a link to more from the Treasury Department.

In his speech in Miami, President Trump said he wants Florida Gov. Rick Scott to challenge incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in next year’s elections. Scott has already said he is considering running for the seat held by Nelson in 2018. Nelson, the only statewide elected Democrat in Florida, has already said he plans to run for a fourth term.

Here’s a link to a Reuters report on Cuba tourism numbers.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.


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