President Donald Trump's new U.S.-Cuba regulations went into effect Thursday. But despite this and the U.S. State Department's decision to discourage Americans from traveling to the island, Sande Speck was exploring Old Havana with a group.
Speck, a tourist from Minnesota, was visiting the Communist island for the first time. She doesn't support the U.S. embargo or Trump's rollback of former President Barack Obama's policy of re-engagement.
"I don't think you leave people out of being part of the world," Speck said. "And to include, means you need to allow the rest of us to learn about Cuba."
Trump announced new sanctions in June, and the Treasury Department warned Wednesday that they would be a partial reversal of former President Barack Obama’s policy. Trump wants to insulate economic activity away from the Cuban military without completely getting rid of U.S. engagement.
Dani Perez, an American tour guide working in Havana, said he was relieved. He is based out of California and travels frequently to the island. He co-founded the American Tour Operators, an organization representing more than 50 American companies in Cuba.
"Fortunately the door is not completely shut," Perez said. "We're hopeful that Americans will continue to come and we're happy that we can still operate."
The Cuban government is calling the latest regulations arbitrary and a setback for U.S.-Cuba relations. Josefina Vidal, the top Cuban diplomat for North America, said she has heard "the old speech" before.
Vidal said Trump's new measures are meant to put "pressure on the Cuban government to change. Has it happened in the past?"
Sen. Marco Rubio told reporters that he wants the list to be longer and include the Gran Caribe Hotel Group and Cubanacan. He believes there are more entities controlled by the military, intelligence, or security services or personnel that should have been in the list of forbidden business partnerships. The State Department plans to update the list and will enforce it on a case-by-case basis.