U.S. lawmakers join Cuban entrepreneurs urging Trump to maintain Obama's policies

Posted: 10-Dec-16 10:01

Some of Cuba's emerging entrepreneurs joined forces with U.S lawmakers last Wednesday to urge U.S. President-elect Donald Trump to keep the changes made by Obama's administration to the formerly strict embargo rules. The relaxation of some of these rules have allowed private Cuban business to flourish and benefit from a larger, wider customer-base that included an increasing number of U.S. travellers.

U.S. lawmakers join Cuban entrepreneurs urging Trump to maintain Obama's policies

Five congressional Democrats and one Republican joined over 100 Cuban entrepreneurs last Wednesday to add pressure to President-elect Donald Trump in an effort to get him to continue Obama´s relaxed policy towards Cuba.

Just a day earlier, on 7th December, a group of private business owners in Cuba had drafted up a letter requesting Mr. Trump to continue Obama´s legacy of engagement with Cuba once he takes office on 20th January. The move comes following the death of former Cuban revolutionary leader, Fidel Castro, last 25th November, with Trump reacting to the news by issuing a threat to the Cuban government to end the renewed U.S.-Cuba ties unless they provided the U.S. with “a better deal”.

Signed by a large number of Cuban business owners (over 100 of them) some of the letter´s fragments, addressed directly to Donald Trump, read:

“As a successful businessman, we are sure you understand the importance of economic engagement between countries”

Expanding on how they have benefitted enormously from Obama´s relaxation of the embargo rules, the letter carried a tone of urgency:

“The additional measures to increase travel, commerce and investment, including Congress´ push to lift the embargo, would benefit our businesses, the Cuban people and the national interests of the United States”

The letter was promoted by Cuba Educational Travel, an American company organising trips to the island and associated with Washington´s lobby group, Engage Cuba.

Following this incident, on Wednesday, a congressional group made up of five Democrats and one Republican held a news conference in Washington with Cuban businessmen whose enterprises had grown since the two countries started normalising relations almost two years ago; after President Obama made the announcement on 17th December 2014 to change tack and aim for a policy of engagement with the Cuban people, as opposed to the embargo´s isolation, which had yielded no results throughout its over five decades of existence.

Since the U.S. re-engagement with the island, several U.S. airlines have started operating regular commercial flights to Cuba, while U.S. hotel chains have signed contracts to manage hotels in Havana and agricultural companies have started looking for investment opportunities in Cuba. As recent as last Wednesday, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd announced they were granted approval to start operating cruises in Cuba.

On Cuba’s part, government officials also said on Wednesday that they are open to continue the thawing process kick-started by Obama’s administration and work with Trump towards this end, but also hope to be able to sign off a dozen more business agreements before Obama leaves office.

A couple of weeks ago, just days before the death of Fidel Castro shook things up and saw Trump posting a message on Twitter dismissing Cuba's late leader as a cruel dictator, a U.S. business coalition had begun putting pressure on Trump to maintain the Cuban detente.

Supporters of Obama’s change in policy towards Cuba have said this has resulted in a direct improvement to Cubans’ lives while “opening cracks” in the island’s socialist regime.

The pressure´s on for Mr Trump, former businessman and soon-to-be President of the United of States. You could say that much like in the White House, he can be perceived to have a conflict of interests in Cuba: that of driving U.S. economy forward by backing the expansion needs of American companies operating in Cuba, and that of standing by his electoral promises as a candidate when he assured his Cuban-American, Florida-based voters that he would revert back Obama’s changes in the island. We don’t have long to wait and see which direction Mr Trump ends up taking. 


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