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Quiet docks, empty streets … Cubans count the cost as tourists stay away

After Donald Trump reversed Obama’s warming of relations, curtailing flights and cruise ship visits, the island is braced for a return to economic limbo

Along the docks in Havana, the streets are quiet. Where thousands of people disembarked from cruise ships on a daily basis, the port now lies empty. A quick stroll away, in the Almacenes de San José crafts market, María Hernández watches a handful of tourists browsing the aisles of this vast restored 19th-century warehouse, hoping they will pause at her stall. For the past nine years, she has been selling a range of goods: decorative plates, coffee mugs, vintage car magnets and Che Guevara keyrings. She welcomed the influx of people from the United States after the “normalisation” of relations with Cuba in December 2014.

“Without doubt, when the cruise ships were here, it was much better,” she said. Now, after further tightening of US sanctions against Cuba under the Trump administration, she has only seen one ship in the past month. “But it wasn’t just the tourists in the cruise ships, independent travellers also came,” she said, and now there are fewer of them as well. The future is uncertain, she admits, but she’s hopeful that she’ll see the visitors from the US again.

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