AP reports that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio forced President Obama to the negotiating table over eased travel restrictions with Cuba:
"This is nothing more than tourism. This is tourism for Americans that, at best, are curious about Cuba and, at worst, sympathize with the Cuban regime," Rubio said.
It is not clear how many Americans have taken advantage of the people-to-people exchanges, but the number is certainly in the thousands.
For months, Rubio held up Senate confirmation of a key diplomat, Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobsen, until the White House took action on people-to-people. Alex Conant, a spokesman for Rubio, acknowledged a quid pro quo was reached in March, leading to Jacobsen's confirmation and toughened Treasury guidelines that he called "an overdue and welcome step."
Tour operators say Rubio's claims are unfair and will hurt ordinary Cubans, including new entrepreneurs who have taken advantage of a limited free market opening under President Raul Castro to set up private restaurants and other small businesses.