Tampa chamber sees benefits to Cuban business

"After all, these 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked. It's time for a new approach," said President Barack Obama.

It's being called the most significant development in U.S.-Cuba relations in 50 years, Obama announcing a major policy shift that includes: Re-opening embassies, easing travel and economic restrictions, allowing Americans to use their credit and debit cards in Cuba, and allowing them to return to the states with Cuban goods like those world-famous cigars.

The president of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce says the Port of Tampa, Tampa International Airport and communities like Ybor City will definitely feel the benefits.

"Environmental issues can be a big hit and tourism back and forth could be successful. Tampa has a very long history with Cuba going back to the 1500s when we were trade partners," said Bob Rohrlack.

From coffee roasting to cigars burning, you can smell the Cuban influence on the streets of Ybor. Victor DiMaio was born here but has history there. "My father is Italian my mother Cuban my grandparents came here a long time ago to make cigars."

For DiMaio -- and many other Cuban-Americans -- Obama's announcement Wednesday was a welcome surprise. "Today America chooses to cut loose the shackles of the past and reach for a better future - for the Cuban people for the American people," Obama said.

"This isn't a 100 percent drop in embargo, it's a tremendous easing. I never thought in my lifetime that this would happen -- really didn't," said DiMaio.

There are some people though, who might not have wanted to see this happen in their lifetime.

"Cuban Americans don't care for the embargo. It's the older exiles, who lost farms, businesses" he said.

Most people 10 News spoke with on the street said they cautiously support the changes. "Go with caution of course, it's a communist country," said Tom McCormack.

So what do Florida senators think about the policy shift? Republican Senator Marco Rubio -- who is also a Cuban-American, said, "It's the latest in a long line of failed attempts by President Obama to appease rogue regimes at all cost."

Meanwhile, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson was cautious: "Let's see if Castro changes the behavior of a brutal police state and provides freedoms for the Cuban people."

RELATED: Obama: Normalize relations with Cuba

Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor said: "Thanks to the President, the State of Florida and the Tampa Bay area can seize the opportunity to lead on engagement and encourage human rights and economic reforms in Cuba."

Tampa is one of only three airports that serve Cuba flights. By the way, if you plan on traveling there, you will need both your U.S. passport and a Cuban visa, sometimes referred to as a tourist card. Tampa offers three different flights to Havana, Holguin, and Santa Clara.


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