Cuban entrepreneurs brace for impact of new U.S.-Cuba policy

Trump to announce new policy Friday in Little Havana

HAVANA – La Guarida is one of the hottest privately-owned restaurants in Havana. It has been in business for over two decades and in the last few years it has become a U.S. tourists' favorite.

The historic home at the Concordia was one of the sites of "Fresa y Chocolate," a film about a friendship between a flamboyantly gay artists and a straight man. 

Enrique Núñez, who owns La Guarida, said many celebrated former President Barack Obama's move to close a chapter between the two former Cold War foes in 2014. He said growth followed. 

"In each block, there is construction," Núñez said.

The restaurateur is among the business owners in Cuba who were bracing for President Donald Trump's Friday announcement at the Manuel Artime Theater in Miami's Little Havana on Friday.  The theater is named after a leader of the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion. 

Núñez and others Cuban business owners fear Trump will limit their access to U.S. dollars. He said many will take a hit because U.S. tourists are not afraid to spend. He thinks restricting U.S. tourism is a mistake, because their money ends up in the hands of the Cuban people and not in the hands of the Cuban military.

"Obama's measures have in some ways awakened the hope of entrepreneurs," Núñez said. 

Trump is expected to remind Americans that the ban on U.S. tourism hasn't been lifted. U.S. travelers must stick to the 12 authorized categories and have the evidence to show that the purpose of their trip followed those categories if audited, which can happen any time within five years after their trip.

Trump was expected to restrict U.S. companies from doing business with entities that run under the umbrella of the Cuban military. Deals with the Armed Forces Business Enterprises Group, better known as GAESA, will have to face the scrutiny of the U.S. Commerce and Treasury Departments. 

"Economic practices that benefit the Cuban military at the expense of the Cuban people will soon be coming to an end," Sen. Marco Rubio wrote on Twitter Thursday.  

Trump will not be closing the embassy, nor will he disrupt the U.S.-Cuba flights. Agreements of cooperation between law enforcement agencies dealing with drug smuggling will also remain. Human rights violations will likely be at the center of his speech. 

U.S. Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart, Ileana Ros-lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo have been concerned about ongoing reports of human rights violations in Cuba. Curbelo said he views the Cuban military under President Raul Castro as an enemy of the U.S.

"We need to be clear about who Raul Castro is and hold him accountable," Curbelo said. 


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