Cuban Americans at the Tabanero Cigar company in Ybor City are anxiously waiting to learn what changes President Donald Trump will make to the island nation.
“I’m worried,” Yanko Maceda said. “I think, if he takes things back, whatever was in place before it didn't work, it didn't work."
Maceda said he knows the Cuban government controls everything. He understands that the government is also lining their pockets with money from American tourists. But, when he calls his cousin on the island. He hears only good things.
“Having the embargo for so many years kept Cubans blind,” Maceda said. "Opening a little bit, it kind of opened their minds, they realized there was hope, other horizons. If he takes it back to where it used to be with the embargo there is no hope for changes in Cuba.”
More than four million foreign visitors traveled to Cuba in 2016, an increase of 13 percent over 2015, according to Cuba's Ministry of Tourism. The record number of tourists was led by a big jump in visits from the United States and Europe.
“I'm Cuban. So, I'm seeing my side my people and what's been happening in the past two years has been helping my people,” Maceda said.
Cuba’s tourism ministry acknowledged that the tourism boom was linked directly to the renewal of diplomatic relations with the U.S. There are now commercial flights to Cuba, and cruise ships sailing from the Ports of Tampa and Miami.
According to White House officials, Mr. Trump plans to outline stiffer rules for American travelers visiting Cuba and a sweeping prohibition against transactions with companies controlled by the military, which runs vast swaths of the hotel and tourism sector.
Senator Marco Rubio tweeted, “economic practices that benefit the Cuban military at the expense of the Cuban people will soon be coming to an end #BetterDealforCuba.”
Maceda said the diplomatic relations between Cuba and the U.S. in the last 60 years didn’t work. He questioned what the harm was with sticking to Mr. Obama’s changes and seeing what happens. He is curious to see what Mr. Trump has planned for his family members still living on the island.
“Cuba has to soften up a little,” Maceda said. “I think, with these two years of Cuba enjoying the American tourist, they will think twice and change their policy. I hope that is what Trump is looking for.”
Trump expected to make his Cuba policy announcement in Miami on Friday at 1:00 p.m.