Cigar enthusiasts excited over new US-Cuban relations

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SAN DIEGO – A cigar store owner in San Diego was one of many Cuban-Americans excited over the potential business opportunities following the announcement of U.S-Cuban relations.

“This is shocking to the industry,” said Rami Abbouna, owner of Smoker Land on Black Mountain Road.

President Obama announced Wednesday he would executive action to re-establish an embassy in Havana, increase American travel to Cuba, allow the use of American debit and credit cards on the communist island and even bring Cuban goods back home, including Cuban cigars.

“Tomorrow if the embargo is lifted, my expectation is for two years we won’t sell anything else beside the Cuban cigar, because the market is so hungry for it,” said Abbouna.

American Alan Gross was released by Cuba Wednesday after being convicted of spying on their government in 2011. The release marked the beginning of the most dramatic change to relations between the U.S. and Cuba in over 50 years.

“We will end an outdated approach,” said President Obama.

The President also said he hopes to work with Congress to lift the decades-long embargo on Cuba, which has only worsened the backlash from those who oppose this deal.

“[He] has basically given the Cuban government everything it asked for and received no assurances of any advances in democracy and freedom in return,” said Cuban American U.S. Congressman Marco Rubio.

The same sentiment mimics some thoughts within the Cuban American community in San Diego.

“We’ve been in a position of leverage and of strength because we’ve had this embargo in place that has kept a tyrant poor, a poor tyrant is not a big enemy of the United States,” said Dan Mera, owner of Andrés Cuban and Puerto Rican Restaurant on Morena Boulevard.

Mera said he remembers the reasons for why relations between the two nations became sour in the first place.

“What the Cuban people really want…they want the civil freedoms that we have here in this country, none of that was accomplished today,” said Mera. “A lot of the people that are saying that they’re happy that we’re finally happy with Cuba are the younger generation that has forgotten that we had Cuban missiles pointed at us, Russian missiles Cuba pointed at us and it almost started a third world war, I haven’t forgotten.”

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