Fort Wayne immigrants, businesses react to Trump’s Cuba policies

(Provided Photo/WANE)

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Since Barack Obama loosened restrictions on individual travel to Cuba, interest in Fort Wayne-based Cuba Scuba went through the roof. But owners there are feeling confident that momentum will stay even after President Trump’s announcement.

President Trump is rolling back some of President Obama’s policies on Cuba making it harder for individual travel to the island. His announcement Friday from Miami would strengthen the policing of travel between the United States and Cuba.

“There’s so many things I love about Cuba, I can’t pick one,” Bill Houghton said.

Amy Warren and her dad Bill Houghton have been visiting and scuba diving in Cuba since 1998. Warren opened Cuba Scuba in Fort Wayne to take groups down to the country her family loves.

“There’s been groups from all around the country interested in travel to Cuba as a result of Obama,” Houghton said.

In 2015, President Obama loosened restrictions on individual travel, allowing for an exemption for people to go to Cuba to interact with and support the Cuban people. However, President Trump said Friday that Obama’s policy only put money into the Castro regime’s hands since there was little policing of where Americans spent their money in the Cuban tourism industry, which is largely controlled by the government.

Trump announced policies to restrict any transaction with the Cuban military, like staying at hotels, and getting rid of the individual people-to-people exemption. However, people-to-people travel with groups like Cuba Scuba is not affected.

“Our trips have always supported the Cuban people, doing home stays, staying at private bed and breakfasts, eating at the private restaurants, speaking with local entrepreneurs,” Warren said.

Gustavo Rodriguez, owner of Caliente Restaurant in Fort Wayne, came to America from Cuba 17 years ago. He was happy with Obama’s policies but said they weren’t enforced enough to make sure only Cuban people benefited. So, he’s glad President Trump is doing what he’s doing.

If you’re planning a trip to Cuba, he has advice: “Try to rent a private house, try to rent private transportation.”

Cuba Scuba is hosting a Cuba night for anyone with questions about traveling with them. That event will be June 27 at 6:30 p.m. at Deep Blue Dive Center, located at 1313 Progress Road in Fort Wayne.

Of course, Caliente will be catering.

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