Cuban businessmen say that the policy announced by US President Donald Trump to the island is already hurting small private businesses, the opposite of their stated intention.
“We are very worried, we have already canceled three large groups” since Trump’s announcement in June, said Nidialys Acosta, who runs a classic car taxi service with her husband Julio.
Acosta is part of a delegation of eight small business owners who traveled to Washington to present their case.
Trump announced last month in Miami before a mostly Cuban-American crowd the cancellation of the initiative of the government of his predecessor, Barack Obama, to boost relations with Cuba allowing trips to the island and direct flights and cruises from the United States.
The president considered reducing sanctions against Cuba during the Obama administration as a “completely unilateral agreement,” promising to help the Cuban people and the private sector – and strengthen democracy and human rights on the island – by not allowing US dollars go to the Cuban army through state tourism agencies.
However, by hindering individual travel, Acosta said, it drives more business to hotels and government agencies, hurting a private sector that had grown with the influx of American tourists.
“I think Trump’s advisers do not know what they’re talking about,” and they do not understand Cuba’s private sector, Celia Mendoza, founder of the VIP Concierge Havana travel agency, said.
Mendoza, who is also part of the delegation of small businessmen, dismissed the concerns of the Cuban-American community in Miami, saying they are not “true Cubans” and do not understand the daily problems that affect the island.
Mendoza said she can not get a license from the US Treasury Department to do business in Cuba because she is not a US citizen and the agencies that have those licenses work mainly with Cuban government tourism companies when they book group trips.
In a letter to the Trump government Tuesday, businessmen urged Washington to allow visits by individual travelers, who are more likely to use private accommodations and restaurants. They also called for greater access to the Cuban financial system for these travelers.