MIAMI (CBSMiami/CNN) – Cuba’s tourism industry is suffering after the Trump administration has once again made it more difficult for Americans to visit the communist-run island.
An administration ruling which cancels US flights to nine destinations took effect on Tuesday. The change has concerned tourism professionals in the country.
Where herds of American visitors once roamed Havana’s colonial places, now they are something of an endangered species.
“Rafael,” who dresses up as a dandy in Old Havana and charges tourists to take photos of him with his huge cigar says he’s hurting.
“Now there is nothing, there isn’t anyone,” he said, “Trump’s blockade doesn’t let us make a living.”
As a candidate for president, Trump campaigned on reversing the Obama administration’s opening with Cuba, a promise to anti-engagement Cuban-Americans, mainly in South Florida, that he has more than fulfilled since becoming president.
The Trump administration has also placed sanctions on the ships that transport oil from Venezuela to Cuba, leading to long lines as Cubans try to buy needed fuel on the island.
US administration officials blame Cuban support for the Maduro regime’s survival in Venezuela, despite US sanctions.
US cruise ships that once filled the Havana Harbor, and the tourists they brought with them, are now gone after the Trump administration ordered the cruise lines to leave immediately in June. In April the US, for the first time, allowed people who lost property after the Cuban revolution to sue foreign companies using that property in US courts, angering allies like Canada and Spain. The administration has said that they will continue to ratchet up the pressure.
“The Obama administration’s cuddling up to Cuba by applying heavy new sanctions. We recognize that engagement has not improved Cuba’s regime and hasn’t made it better. The human rights record was worse,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
It doesn’t appear, however, that some sanctions are changing Cuba’s domestic policies.
In October, Cuba arrested Jose Daniel Ferrara, the head of the island’s largest anti-government dissident group. Cuba claimed that he was a violent criminal. The US said he is a civil rights leader. Despite the US and international outcry Ferrara remains jailed.
Cuba’s government concedes the Trump administration’s policy towards Cuba has caused more economic hardship, but said it won’t achieve any of its goals.
With each new round of sanctions, the Cuban government said it will maintain its solidarity with Venezuela and other regional allies and that US pressure will not cause them to retreat one inch. With much of the rest of the world doing business with Cuba after 60 years of economic sanctions, it’s not clear anymore if the US is isolating Cuba or itself.