Thursday, March 23, 2017

Scramble for GOP healthcare votes suddenly puts Cuba policy in play

Scramble for GOP healthcare votes suddenly puts Cuba policy in play
BY PATRICIA MAZZEI AND NORA GÁMEZ TORRES
pmazzei@miamiherald.com

The showdown in Congress over House Republicans' healthcare bill might
have nothing to do with Raúl Castro — if it weren't for Miami.

Thursday's planned vote on the American Health Care Act is so razor
tight that House GOP leaders and the White House are leaning hard on
every single shaky Republican for their support. One of them: Rep. Mario
Diaz-Balart of Miami, whose foremost want is to overturn the Obama
administration's Cuba opening — and who has recently taken it upon
himself to outline a possible Cuba policy for the Trump administration.

Perhaps Diaz-Balart and the White House would engage in a little
old-fashioned horse trading — a "Yes" vote on healthcare for swift
action on Cuba?

The New York Times reported Wednesday that Diaz-Balart wanted assurances
from White House officials that President Donald Trump would keep his
campaign promise to take a harder Cuba line. There was no explicit
discussion about trading a healthcare vote for a Cuba promise, The Times
said after initially reporting otherwise.

"I wish that they would've given me a commitment on something, but that
is just made up," Diaz-Balart told McClatchy, the Miami Herald's parent
company, on Wednesday.

He added that he's still undecided on the healthcare bill, mostly based
on concerns about insurance coverage and premium costs for older Americans.

"I am very concerned that particularly that population is not being
dealt with yet in a way that is giving me a lot of comfort," he said.

Politically, he noted, it's better not to be a hard "Yes" or "No": "Once
I do that, then I'm out of the loop."

But there's no denying that Diaz-Balart has brought up Cuba every time
he's had a chance to speak to the White House, where he's closest to
Vice President Mike Pence. And the Trump administration has spent two
days openly wooing Republicans who, like Diaz-Balart, are on the fence
about healthcare. (The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the bill
lacks the votes to pass the House on Thursday.) Diaz-Balart was the
tie-breaking vote approving the bill in the Budget Committee last week
but has said he nevertheless leans against it.

Diaz-Balart said Wednesday he hasn't talked to Trump — but wouldn't say
if he's spoken with Pence.

The suggestion that Diaz-Balart or the White House might even consider
cutting a deal on Cuba to pass healthcare prompted immediate criticism
from advocates of U.S.-Cuba engagement and from the Democratic
Congressional Campaign Committee, which said the AHCA would "cost tens
of thousands of his own constituents access to healthcare, blow the roof
off of others' premiums, and slap an age tax on older South Floridians."

"Mr. Diaz-Balart is playing politics with his constituents' healthcare
in order to settle a family feud," said James Williams, president of
Engage Cuba, a group that advocates for closer U.S.-Cuba ties. "Our
U.S.-Cuba policy should be guided by what's in the best interests of the
American and Cuban people, not one congressman's personal agenda."

The White House has yet to make any commitments on Cuba, a congressional
source told the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald on Wednesday — in part
because Trump has yet to appoint No. 2s at the State Department and
National Security Council to handle Western Hemisphere affairs.

In the absence of any high-level policy officials, Diaz-Balart has
recently circulated a two-page memo to other Cuban Americans in Congress
outlining a possible Trump approach to Cuba. The memo, titled "A Good
Deal that Upholds the Law and Protects National Security," has also been
passed around the White House.

The memo lists no author, and Diaz-Balart's office would not confirm
Wednesday that he wrote it. Diaz-Balart, however, rattled off the same
proposals — practically verbatim — in a November interview with el Nuevo
Herald. Another congressional source confirmed Wednesday that the memo
had come from Diaz-Balart.

The memo doesn't go as far as calling for a return to restrictive
Bush-era Cuba policy. Instead, it seeks to undo former President Barack
Obama's actions from December 2014, when he announced the
reestablishment of diplomatic relations with the island's Communist regime.

Cuba would get 90 days to meet criteria set by Congress in the 1996
Helms-Burton Act, including schedule free, multiparty elections,
respecting political and civil rights, and making "demonstrable
progress" on returning property confiscated from Americans or
compensating them for it. Failure to do so would result in returning
Cuba to the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, allowing lawsuits
against confiscated Cuban property, and eliminating the October 2016
Obama guidance to federal agencies on normalizing U.S.-Cuba relations.

"The top priority is that sanctions must be tightened at least to those
that were in place prior to President Obama's changes announced in
December 2014," the memo says, in a line that is bold and underlined.
"In addition to that fundamental change, President Trump has other
opportunities listed here which together will generate a better deal for
the American and Cuban people that furthers U.S. law and vital national
security interests."

McClatchy Washington correspondent Lesley Clark contributed to this report.

Source: Scramble for GOP healthcare votes puts Cuba policy in play |
Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/article140190463.html

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Raul Castro Squandered His Last Chance

Raul Castro Squandered His Last Chance / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 22 March 2017 — A year
ago Cuba had a once in a lifetime opportunity. US President Barack Obama
came to the island willing to turn the page on political
confrontation. The gesture transcended the diplomatic situation, but
Raul Castro – fearful of losing control – responded by putting the
brakes on economic reforms and raising the levels of ideological
discourse and repression.

Nations are not presented with opportunities every year, nor even every
century. The decision to entrench itself and not to undertake political
flexibilizations has been the Plaza of the Revolution's most egotistical
measure of recent times. Failure to know how to take advantage of the
end of public belligerence with our neighbor to the north will bring
this country lasting and unpredictable consequences.

These effects will not be suffered by the so-called "historic
generation" – those at the forefront of the 1950s Revolution – now
diminished by the rigors of biology and desertions. Rather than the
generals in olive-green, the ones who will pay the price will be those
who are still sleeping in their cradles or spinning their tops in the
streets of the island. They don't know it, but in the last twelve months
a short-sighted octogenarian tricked them out of a share of their future.

The greatest waste has been not exploiting the international moment, the
excitement about foreign investments, and the expectations everywhere in
Cuba of taking the first steps towards democratic change without
violence or chaos. It was not the job of the White House to encourage or
provoke such transformations, but its good mood was a propitious setting
for them to be less traumatic.

Instead, the white rose Obama extended to Castro in his historic speech
in Havana's Gran Teatro has faded, beset by hesitations and fears. Now,
it is our job to explain to these Cubans of tomorrow why we were at a
turning point in our history and we threw it away.

Source: Raul Castro Squandered His Last Chance / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez
– Translating Cuba -
https://translatingcuba.com/raul-castro-squandered-his-last-chance-14ymedio-yoani-sanchez/

Obama’s Unquestionable Imprint

Obama's Unquestionable Imprint / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 20 March 2017 — Putting aside the
passions of supporters and detractors of the policies drawn up by
President Barack Obama for Cuba, there is no doubt that, for better or
worse, it set indelible before and after benchmarks in the lives of the
Cuban people.

The first benchmark was the reestablishment of relations after half a
century of confrontation, which – although it did not even come close to
the high expectations of Cubans – did manage to expose the Cuban
dictatorship to the scrutiny of international public opinion, thus
demonstrating that the regime is the true obstacle to the wellbeing and
happiness of Cubans.

Consequently, although Cubans are no freer, after two years of
rapprochement with the former "imperialist enemy," the Castro regime has
run out of arguments to justify the absence of economic, political and
social rights, and thus has lost credibility in the International forums
and in political circles, where it is being openly questioned.

Just a few days before leaving the White House, Obama took another
decisive step by repealing the "wet foot/dry foot" policy, giving up
immigration privileges for Cubans in the US, and thereby crushing the
hopes of an large number of Cubans who aspired to enjoy the rights and
prosperity in that destination, that they can only dream about now, and
are unable to demand in their own country.

Thus, in two years, these two Cuban exceptions which seemed eternal,
suddenly disappeared: an old dictatorship, long tolerated by the
international community when it was considered the "small, heroic and
defenseless victim resisting the onslaught of the strongest of world
powers," and the people – equally victimized, persecuted, helpless and
subjugated by the dictatorship enthroned in power – who were forced to
emigrate, deserving the consubstantial privilege, above that of any
other immigrants, to live quietly in the territory of the United States,
no longer setting foot in Cuba.

Thus, in the future, the Castro regime can be considered as what it
really is: a prosaic dictatorship without heroic attire, while those
Cubans who flee it without making the slightest effort to face it, will
not be described as "politically persecuted," but as any other run of
the mill immigrants, such as those throughout the world who aspire to
enjoy the wellbeing and opportunities that residing in the most
developed country on the planet offers. No more, no less.

That is to say, though Barack Obama did not improve or worsen the Cuban
crisis, we, nevertheless, must thank him for putting things in their
right perspective, whether we like it or not. But it may be that some,
or perhaps too many, find it much more comfortable to steer the direct
burden of the current state of affairs in Cuba – including increases in
repression – while others (more astute) here and there toss their hair
and tear their patriotic garments against the "betrayal" of the former
leader, generally with the untenable intention of making a political
career or of continuing to thrive in the Cuban calamity.

These are the "hard hand" theorists who will attempt to use it as a
trump card to overthrow the Castro dictatorship, this time with the
hypothetical support of the new US President, as if that strategy had
not proved ineffective during the previous 50 years.

The sad paradox is that, judging from the present reality, the Castro
way of government – like other known dictatorships – will not "fall,"
defeated by the indignant people, fed up with poverty and oppression.
Neither will it be crushed by the tenacious struggle of the opposition
or the pressures of some foreign government. Most likely, instead of
falling, the Castro regime will gently slide down of its own accord into
another advantageous form of existence in a different socioeconomic setting.

For, while not a few Cuban groups from both shores wear themselves out
and gloat over mutual reproaches and useless lamentations, the olive
green mafia continues behind the scenes, distributing the pie, quietly
accommodating itself in the best positions and palming its cards under
our clueless noses, to continue to enjoy the benefits and the privileges
of power when the last remnants of the shabby backdrop of "socialism,
Castro style," which is all that barely remains of the glorious
revolutionary project, will finally fall.

To the surprise of the army of disinherited survivors of the communist
experiment, the progeny of the historical generation and their
accompanying generals could emerge, transmuted into tycoons and
entrepreneurs, thus consummating the cycle of the swindle that begun in
1959. This is, so far, the most likely scenario.

Perhaps by then 60 years of totalitarianism would have elapsed, and
eleven presidents will have passed through the White House, but until
today, only one of them, Barack Obama, will have influenced, in such a
defining way, in the political future of Cuba.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Source: Obama's Unquestionable Imprint / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya –
Translating Cuba -
https://translatingcuba.com/obamas-unquestionable-imprint-cubanet-miriam-celaya/

The Government Prohibits Berta Soler From Leaving Cuba

The Government Prohibits Berta Soler From Leaving Cuba / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 21 March 2017 – This Tuesday, the Cuban government
prevented Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White movement, from
traveling outside the country because of an unpaid fine for for an
alleged infraction "against public adornment." Meanwhile, the
authorities accuse her of having thrown "papers in the street," which
the regime opponent clarified to 14ymedio were "leaflets."

Soler took advantage of the action to denounce the disappearance, this
Tuesday, of her husband, the activist Angel Moya. "We consider that he
is 'disappeared' because when he left the house he was being followed,"
she detailed. "Today I am calling him and his phone is shut off or
outside the coverage area."

"This morning I was supposed to travel to the United States, first to
Miami and then to California," said Soler. However, after passing
through the immigration booth and security controls at Jose Marti
International Airport in Havana, she was intercepted by an immigration
official who asked her to accompany him to an office.

The official told Soler that they would not let her board the plane
because she had not paid a fine for "throwing papers into the street."
According to Decree 272, whoever "throws into the public street waste
such as papers, wrappings, food waste, packaging and the like," will
have a fine of 50 pesos and must "pick them up immediately."

"Here, the person who owes the Cuban people freedom is Raul Castro,"
Soler replied to the accusation. She claims that it was sheets with
political slogans. "The fine is from last September, after that I went
to Panama and the United States, so I don't understand this now," the
dissident complains.

Last year, when the Aguilera Police Station informed Soler about the
fine, she signed a document informing her of the contravention with an
ironic "Down you-know-who," and threw it in the agents' faces, telling
them: "I do not accept any inappropriate fines."

Subsequently, Soler was informed that the unpaid fine could be doubled,
and it was suggested that the police could exchange each Cuba peso
(approximately 4 cents US) of the fine for one day in jail or instead
not let her travel on Tuesday.

The activist was planning to meet in California with David Kaye, United
Nations rapporteur for freedom of expression. Instead of Soler, Lady in
White Leticia Ramos will attend the meeting.

"In the report we list all those fines that they assign to us
inappropriately," reflects Soler. "They are illegal and violate the
Republic's penal code," a situation that is complemented by "the
harassment, the threat and violence that is unleashed against our
families, against our children and our husbands to try to get us to stop
our activism."

This month marks a year since the Lady in White was prevented from
attending mass at Santa Rita parish, and also blocked from attending the
Sunday marches on 5th Avenue, a traditional route that goes back to the
origins of the movement after the repressive wave of 2003, known as the
Black Spring.

Source: The Government Prohibits Berta Soler From Leaving Cuba /
14ymedio – Translating Cuba -
https://translatingcuba.com/the-government-prohibits-berta-soler-from-leaving-cuba-14ymedio/

Doubtful Meat From Brazil Continues To Be Sold In Cuba

Doubtful Meat From Brazil Continues To Be Sold In Cuba / 14ymedio,
Zunilda Mata

14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 21 March 2017 — Cubans know a lot about
adulterations. For decades they have grappled with the "diversion of
resources" [i.e. stealing] from state stores and the practice of state
employees acquiring products elsewhere at low prices, bringing them into
the stores and selling them at high prices and keeping the profit for
themselves. Hence the scandal of the altered meat that involves two
Brazilian companies has hardly surprised anyone on the Island.

This Monday Brazilian meat products continued to be sold in Cuba's
retail network, where the frozen chicken of the brands Frangosul and
Perdix, from the companies JBS and BRF respectively, continue to be on
sale. According to an investigation by the Federal Police of Brazil,
both these companies adulterated these products.

In the case of chicken, the authorities have warned that it is more of
an economic fraud, consisting of adding water to the product to increase
the weight, without any risks to health.

The results of what was called "Carne Fraca" ("weak meat" in
Portuguese), confirmed the suspicions of those who warned that something
"doesn't smell right" in the world's largest exporter of these products.
Each year Brazil exports beef worth roughly 5.5 billion dollars and
chicken worth roughly 6.5 billion. This business represents 7.2% of
Brazil's Gross Domestic Product.

So far, no Cuban store or market has withdrawn the Brazilian frozen food
products. On the digital sites that offer a wide range of foods that
emigrants abroad can order for their families on the island, Brazilian
beef and chicken remain on sale.

The official media spread the news of the scandal, focusing on the
possible repercussions for President Michel Temer's government. The
Ministry of Public Health did not discuss the issue when asked by 14ymedio.

Cuba imports more than 80% of the food it consumes. For 2017, the bill
for these purchases is expected to exceed $1.75 billion, $82 million
more than the estimate for the previous year.

Each year, more than 120,000 tonnes of chicken meat are bought in the
international market, most of it hindquarters, also called "dark
parts." Alberto Ramírez, president of the Cuban Society of Poultry
Producers (SOCPA), recently confirmed to the official press that
"[domestic] meat production is practically zero."

In 2014, several representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture visited
Brazil to inspect the facilities of the dairy and beef plant managed by
JBS in Mato Grosso do Sul, with a view to importing its products to the
Island. Another 25 facilities approved for trade with Cuba are located
in the states of Tocantins, Rondonia, Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Sul,
Goiás, Mato Grosso and Sao Paulo

The United States and Brazil are the countries supplying the greatest
amount of frozen products to the Cuban market. Faced with the lack of
supply and the lack of variety, chicken has become one of the most
common foods at the table of Cubans. Only the wealthy can afford beef.

"I came to buy a piece of top round steak," said a retired woman at the
butcher's in Plaza de Carlos III on Monday. She said, "it is a luxury
that I can only allow myself from time to time." The meat on offer in
that market comes from Brazil, according to an employee who preferred
anonymity, but who, so far, had received "no order to stop selling it."

On display in the meat case are several packages with prime ground beef,
stew meat, top round and tip steak. No merchandise specifies where it
comes from, but local workers confirm that it has been bought from
Brazil. The customers look longingly at the display; meat remains a
forbidden delicacy for many, even if it is wrapped up in
investigations and fraud.

"Here we work with Brazilian meat," explains one of the waiters at the
restaurant next to the Riviera cinema, formerly El Carmelo, on 23rd
Street. In their menu they offer sirloin, fillet mignon, fried beef
tender and ropa vieja (shredded beef in sauce), this last a very
traditional dish that is in high demand among tourists.

The select El Palco market, whose main customers are diplomats and
foreigners living in Havana, is also "especially stocked with Brazilian
meat," points out one of the local cashiers.

Some 27 people have been arrested in Brazil, and Federal Police
Commissioner Mauricio Moscardi warned of a corruption network inside the
government that allowed adulterated meat to be legalized. That chain of
infractions involved officials of the Brazilian Democratic Movement
Party, to which President Temer belongs.

The main Brazilian meat producers added chemicals to meats that were
"rotten" or unfit for human consumption. An extensive network of bribe
payments purchased approval from the Ministry of Agriculture.

"They used acids and other chemicals, in some cases carcinogenic, to
disguise the physical characteristics of the rotten product and its
smell," Moscardi explained. They treated the meat with vitamin C to give
it a more "appetizing" color, along with levels of preservatives well
above those allowed by health authorities.

Representatives of both companies have denied allegations by police
authorities, but the alarm has spread in the international market and
the companies' stock prices have tumbled sharply.

"BFR ensures the high quality and safety of its products and guarantees
that there is no risk for its consumers," said one of the largest food
companies in the world with more than 30 brands in its portfolio, Sadia,
Perdigão, Qualy, Paty, Dánica, Bocatti or Confidence.

The Chilean Ministry of Agriculture announced, a few hours ago, that it
would accept no more imports from the Brazilian beef market. Minister
Carlos Furche explained that the measure is temporary "until the
Brazilian authorities know exactly what facilities are being
investigated, and of those facilities which have exported to the world
and Chile," he said.

The Chinese authorities have responded unceremoniously. The Government
banned all such imports and prevented meat already shipped from being
unloaded in its ports. Last year the Asian country imported 1.6 billion
dollars from Brazilian meatpackers.

Europe has slowed shipments from JBS and BRF. This week the European
Commissioner for Health Affairs, Vytenis Andriukaitis, will travel to
Brasilia and the agenda revolves around the food scandal.

Cuban customers who are learning about the news coming from Brazil are
beginning to connect the dots. "The chicken no longer came with the
quality of before and had a lot of ice," complains Luisa Cordoves, a
housewife in Central Havana who says that "right now it's better to buy
the chicken boxes that come from United States, because the product
tastes better. "

She believes that the scandal will not dissuade domestic consumers from
acquiring these products. "People have many needs and there is no
choice: you take it or leave it."

Source: Doubtful Meat From Brazil Continues To Be Sold In Cuba /
14ymedio, Zunilda Mata – Translating Cuba -
https://translatingcuba.com/doubtful-meat-from-brazil-continues-to-be-sold-in-cuba-14ymedio-zunilda-mata/

'When I'm 64': Beatlemania blooms belatedly in Cuba

'When I'm 64': Beatlemania blooms belatedly in Cuba
Carlos BATISTA
AFP March 22, 2017

More
Havana (AFP) - While their American and European peers twisted and
shouted to The Beatles in the 1960s, in Cuba childhood sweethearts
Gisela and Hector kept their Beatlemania a naughty secret.

Now, still Beatles-crazy after all these years, but with the communist
island's Cold War-era censorship of rock music a thing of the past, they
are making up for lost time.

"We are very happy that Cuba is becoming reconciled to the Beatles,"
says Gisela, 64.

She and Hector, 65, have decorated their home with pictures, posters and
souvenirs dedicated to the British band.

Whenever they can, they join crowds of fellow Cubans in their 60s and
70s, singing and dancing at the Yellow Submarine bar -- El Submarino
Amarillo -- in downtown Havana.

"This is not nostalgia," says the artistic director of the club,
journalist Guillermo Vilar, 65.

"This is about them claiming their right to experience what they could
not experience before because of all the contradictions of the time."

- You Can't Do That -

Fidel Castro's revolutionary regime banned songs in English, the
language of its enemy the United States, for fear such music would spawn
ideological deviance.

Gisela Moreno and Hector Ruiz would listen to The Beatles on US radio
stations they captured on short-wave radios.

Records lent by the occasional returning traveler were copied in state
recording studios, with the complicity of staff, onto low-quality metal
discs.

"You put it on the record players we had back then and you just heard
noise with the music in the background," Ruiz recalls.

"It was terrible, but hey, at least it was The Beatles."

At their high school, skinny-leg trousers, miniskirts and long hair were
also banned.

But times have changed. The Yellow Submarine, opened in 2011, is one of
at least six Beatles tribute bars across the island -- all of them run
by the culture ministry.

One of them, in the eastern city of Holguin, is said to be an initiative
of ruling party leader Miguel Diaz-Canel -- widely touted as the
country's possible next president.

- I Should Have Known Better -

On a bench near the Yellow Submarine sits a bronze statue of late Beatle
John Lennon.

Fidel Castro himself inaugurated the statue in 2000. In footage of the
ceremony, the late leader can be heard bewailing the former censorship
of Beatles songs.

"I greatly regret not having met you sooner," Castro told the statue.

The censorship was not his idea, Castro went on: he delegated cultural
policy to underlings while he was busy leading Cuba through the Cold War.

Fidel Castro's death last November marked the end of an era in Cuba. His
brother Raul, in charge now for more than a decade, has been gradually
opening up the economy and foreign relations.

The bronze Lennon has become an attraction for locals and the growing
number of foreign tourists visiting the island.

The statue's spectacles have been stolen several times and a guard has
been appointed to take care of them, getting them out for passers-by
when they want to take photos.

- From Me To You -

Fans trace the rise of Beatlemania in Cuba to 1990, when Vilar organized
a tribute concert to mark the 10th anniversary of Lennon's murder.

For many Cubans, that marked the belated birth of rock on the island --
for the old generation and the new.

At the Yellow Submarine, gentlemen's bellies bulge under black Beatles
t-shirts and grey ponytails, while the ladies show off their miniskirts
and long boots.

On stage, Cuba's top Beatles tribute singer Eddy Escobar, 46, plays the
band's hits for scores of ageing revelers.

This ponytailed rocker was not yet born when The Beatles lit up the
counter-culture movement before they broke up in 1970.

But he discovered the music, like younger Cubans are doing now.

"Good music will always last as long there is someone who somehow
appreciates it, right?" says Escobar.

"The Beatles are here to stay," he says. "I give the bug to anyone I can."

Source: 'When I'm 64': Beatlemania blooms belatedly in Cuba -
https://www.yahoo.com/news/im-64-beatlemania-blooms-belatedly-cuba-155002022.html

Cuba official - Mich. could be trade partner, investor

Cuba official: Mich. could be trade partner, investor
Charles E. Ramirez, The Detroit News 3:17 p.m. ET March 21, 2017

Detroit — Michigan and Cuba could be great business partners, Cuba's
ambassador to the U.S. said Tuesday.

"I think (like Cuba,) your main asset here is the people," José Ramón
Cabañas Rodríguez said after his keynote address to the Detroit Economic
Club. "We probably should think about how we can compliment each other.
No doubt agriculture is one field, but there are many others."

Cabañas, who is based in Washington, D.C., and has been Cuba's
ambassador to the U.S. since 2015, spoke to a crowd of about 200 people
at the club's luncheon.

"I invite all of you to come to Cuba and see what we have done over the
last few years," he said.

He was visiting Michigan and Detroit to discuss America's embargo on the
communist Caribbean island nation and future investment opportunities
there. The U.S. has maintained a 59-year-old trade embargo on Cuba and
formal ban on Americans engaging in tourism on the island. But the ban
on trade with Cuba softened in 2014, when then-President Barack Obama
announced the U.S. would re-establish diplomatic relations with the
small nation.

Cabañas said the blockade on Cuba continues to have profound
repercussions on the country's economy and called members of the
audience at the economic club luncheon to urge elected officials to lift it.

"The U.S. has been wasting money, many, many millions of dollars in the
last 20 years in order to reach and influence the Cuban people," he
said. "Our suggestion is: Let's stop all of that. Let's use that money
in a productive way, and let's do business with Cuba the same way we do
with everyone else."

Kimberly Hairston, 52, of Southfield said she was excited to hear the
ambassador's speech Tuesday.

"I think it's very encouraging and very promising," said Hairston, who
attended the luncheon with a group of students from the Wayne County
Community College District, where she works in student services. "I hope
relations between Cuba and the U.S can become stronger."

Cabañas speech at the Detroit Economic Club comes a day after he spoke
to the board of directors of the Michigan Farm Bureau.

Kevin Robson, horticulture specialist with the bureau, said Cabañas
spent about 90 minutes talking to board members about normalizing trade
relations between Cuba and the U.S through bilateral agreements and
potential opportunities for Michigan's farmers to export dairy and fruit
to the island Latin American country.

Michigan and Metro Detroit have small populations of people with Cuban
ancestry.

Am estimated 10,000 people of Cuban descent, or about a tenth of one
percent of the state's total population, call Michigan home, according
to the U.S. Census Bureau. In Metro Detroit, those of Cuban ancestry
account for about 3,000 — or .06 percent — of the area's 4.2 million
people, the agency reports.

cramirez@detroitnews.com

Source: Cuba official: Mich. could be trade partner, investor -
http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/detroit-city/2017/03/21/cuba-detroit/99459650/