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Local business owners, lawmakers concerned about potential Trump changes on Cuba

Frank Reno has been taking organized tour groups to Cuba for more than 20 years.

By Jeff Patterson, published on WFLA on June 2, 2017.

Frank Reno has been taking organized tour groups to Cuba for more than 20 years.

For most of that time, Reno utilized a special license that allowed him to take Americans to Cuba for educational purposes and cultural exchange.

His business changed dramatically when President Obama normalized diplomatic relations and eased travel restrictions.

Reno expected his business to shrink, but instead, he says 2016 was his best year ever.

Now Reno and many others are concerned President Trump may reverse everything President Obama put in place with Cuba.

“If he goes back to the severe restrictions on travel where there must be written specific licenses, chances are that will hurt my business,” said Reno.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio is urging President Trump to return to a hardline stance against Cuba unless the communist country makes major strides in human rights reforms and other changes.

Reno is concerned the President will make those changes this month, but he’s not sure how far Trump will go.

“It all depends on what he does and it’s all been very vague,” said Reno.

Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Castor has traveled to Cuba with a congressional delegation and she is leading a bipartisan effort to drop all travel restrictions.

Castor is even in favor of totally dropping the trade embargo that has limited business with Cuba for more than 50 years.

Castor believes it would be a mistake for President Trump to return to a cold war with Cuba.

"It would be a real shame if President Trump rolls back all of the progress that we’ve made on Cuban engagement. The only way we’re going to help lift human rights in Cuba is to be engaged with them,” said Castor.

Tampa International Airport has the second most commercial flights between the United States and Cuba in the nation.

Only Miami has more daily flights to Cuba than T.I.A.

Castor believes a change by President Trump will hurt business at T.I.A. and small business people like Frank Reno.

“The ripple that would have would hurt jobs, people would lose opportunities, small business owners would find it more difficult to build relationships, but mostly it will hurt the families,” said Castor.

The Congresswoman believes the daily flights between Tampa and Cuba help families with relatives in Cuba to maintain connections.

She would not like to see those families hurt, or business limited.