Tougher Trump line toward Cuba delights hardliners on island

US President Donald Trump speaks about policy changes he is making toward Cuba in Little Havana in Florida

Last week, a group of House Republicans sent a letter to Trump opposing "reversing course" on Cuba.

Its statement takes a swipe at the United States under Trump by noting issues that negatively affect Americans, including racial discrimination and gun violence, and controversial policies on immigration, a border wall and abandoning the Paris Agreement on climate change.

HAVANA (AP) — President Donald Trump's announcement of a tougher line toward Cuba has delighted hardliners on the island, who say it reveals the long-held US aim of imposing American will on Cuba and justifies their wariness toward Washington.

By restricting individual U.S.travel to Cuba, the new policy also risks cutting off a major source of income for Cuba's private business sector, which the policy is meant to support.

"We will not lift sanctions on the Cuban regime until all political prisoners are freed, freedoms of assembly and expression are respected, all political parties are legalised and free and internationally supervised elections are scheduled elections", Trump said.

Sleyko and a friend had booked rooms through Airbnb and were spending their days walking around the city in the muggy heat.

"We will assume any risk and remain firm and secure in building a sovereign, independent, socialist, democratic, prosperous and sustainable nation", Castro said in a statement. "Isn't that the idea of people-to-people?"

Trump is reversing all of Obama's changes, but sources told ABC News he'll likely redefine what it means to be part of the Cuban military, which could prevent US companies from doing business in Cuba.

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Back in Washington, Trump's critics warned that his clampdown on dealings with Cuban military-run tour firms and on private USA travel to the communist-run island would only impoverish ordinary Cubans and threaten diplomatic rapprochement.

Critics of the rapprochement said Obama was giving too much away without extracting concessions from the Cuban government.

That, in turn, will cause a ripple effect.

Some 285,000 people visited the Caribbean country in 2016, up 74 percent over 2015, with Americans the third-biggest group after Canadians and Cuban expats. "It's also the construction crews, the private tour guides, the taxi drivers, the restaurants and the artists selling handicrafts", said Andrea Gallina, an Italian entrepreneur who a year ago opened a high-end boutique hotel, Paseo 206, with his Cuban spouse.

The new policy bans most U.S. business transactions with the Armed Forces Business Enterprises Group, a Cuban conglomerate involved in all sectors of the economy. "We remember what happened".

Marta Diaz, now 75, left Cuba in 1967 and time has done nothing to tiresome her anger towards the regime.

For Cuba, there have been tangible benefits in tourism and telecommunications.

But that's beginning to change. Last year, Obama traveled to Cuba, becoming the first USA president in almost a century to visit the island. That includes 330,000 Cuban Americans visiting relatives on the island, but numerous rest were Americans taking advantage of Obama's landmark moves to restore diplomatic ties with Cuba. The ability of Americans to travel freely on vacation to the country will be scrapped.

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But Trump's rollback is expected to put a brake on that growth.

"New restrictions on engagement with Cuban economy only pushes Cuba to China and Russian Federation who will gladly make up the difference", argued former White House official Ben Rhodes, the architect of Obama's Cuba policy.

It's not hard in the scruffy streets of Little Havana, where old men play dominos in parks between Cuban diners and up-and-coming jazz bars, to find hardliners who spit on the "communist Obama" and his supposed sell-out to Castro.

In Old Havana's tourist quarter, entire city blocks of crumbling century-old buildings are being renovated and turned into boutique hostels and chic cafes. There were two other buildings on the same block also getting an overhaul. The policy bans most financial transactions with a yet-unreleased list of entities associated with Cuba's military and state security, including a conglomerate that dominates much of Cuba's economy, such as many hotels, state-run restaurants and tour buses.

U.S. companies and citizens will also be barred from doing business with any firm controlled by the Cuban military or its intelligence or security services, walling off crucial parts of the economy, including much of the tourist sector, from USA access. The changes would make it more hard for traveler and eventually could make traveling to Cuba more hard for passengers, who would be subject to audit by the Treasury Department to ensure their trips to Cuba fall into one of the 12 acceptable purposes.

"We will never, ever be blind to it", Trump said. "Monitoring travelers, evaluating who is staying in military-owned hotels, tracking license compliance - all that requires bureaucratic capacity and follow up". They urged him to ease barriers with Havana that will boost trade and create jobs in both countries. Flake's bill has 54 co-sponsors, including nine Republicans.

"Because we know it is best for America to have freedom in our hemisphere, whether in Cuba or Venezuela, and to have a future where the people of each country can live out their own dreams", he said. "We're not the Soviet Union".

"You have not betrayed us".

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As you can imagine, they were concerned that the trip, already paid for, would be canceled.

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