PHOENIX - President Trump announced changes to United States policy on Cuba Friday morning.
It has been one year since I had the opportunity to explore Cuba under President Obama.
My group was allowed visas for journalistic purposes, but we were never asked to prove this.
Dancing in the streets was on my list of must-sees when I visited last summer.
Getting there to experience the farmlands, cigars and breathtaking landscapes of Viñales, its soothing Caribbean oceans, all the art, culture and flavors it had to offer wasn’t that hard.
Our group went in meeting one of the 12 acceptable reasons to visit. I was there for journalism. I was never questioned; in fact, no one in my group was. We all got in without an issue.
Friday, President Trump announced it will no longer be that easy. Only those visiting family, there for education or group travel will get in.
Alfredo Molina, a Cuban immigrant and chairman and chief executive officer of the Molina Group, said it was not right for him to live the American dream while other Cubans suffered.
“I can assure you that Raul Castro is filling his pockets with American currency right now,” Molina said.
The dozens I spoke with on the island graciously and excitedly welcomed American cash. Doctors and engineers drove cabs on the side to make ends meet. They told me the $40 a month their professions earned them didn’t cut it. Of course, our 300.00 CUC for a ride halfway through the island was a jackpot for them.
President Trump wanted to enforce the U.S. embargo on the island -- putting his foot down until the Cuban people, not its military, could have a larger piece of the nation’s economic profits.
“While I have, obviously, concerns about how it’s being done, I think that we should demand certain rights for people in Cuba. For Cubans to be free,” Molina said.
Cubans agreed. A year ago, they told me of the tourist dollars they welcomed, the government got an 80 percent cut, controlled their exposure to the internet and even to music.
While I enjoyed the Cuba usually portrayed in movies, poverty stared me down at every turn, but the welcoming, kind spirit of its people left me longing to return just as they asked I would.
People who escape Cuba and turn up on U.S. shores will still be returned to the country. That Obama ban of the so-called "wet foot, dry foot" policy remains.
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