Sunday, December 20, 2015

Business leaders pen ‘open letter’ urging fellow Cuban Americans to embrace U.S. policy changes

Business leaders pen 'open letter' urging fellow Cuban Americans to
embrace U.S. policy changes

Ten businessmen, mostly from Miami, traveled to Cuba this month
They say they saw 'progress' in a fledgling entrepreneurial class
They want to give cover to more Cuban Americans to engage with the island

Earlier this month, nearly a year to the day President Barack Obama
shocked Cuban Americans with the news that the U.S. would reestablish
relations with the Castro regime, a group of Cuban-American business
people, almost all from Miami, quietly traveled to the island to see for
themselves what, if anything, had changed.

Most of the 10 men — even a couple of otherwise staunch conservatives —
returned convinced that stronger ties to the U.S. would help Cubans.
They published a full-page advertisement in Sunday's Miami Herald urging
others to join their cause. Its title: "An Open Letter to Our Fellow

"We saw progress beyond what we could have imagined," they wrote. "We
saw entrepreneurs with a thirst for knowledge and families benefiting
from the newfound freedom of enterprise. It is these 'everyday' people
who are leading the way to an improved life but not without challenges."

Ten businessmen in "An Open Letter to Our Fellow Cuban-Americans"

Without calling for an outright end to the U.S. trade embargo, which can
only be lifted by Congress, they denounced it as ineffective: "As fellow
Cuban-Americans, let us recognize the progress that has been made on
both sides of the 90-mile Florida Straits, albeit halting, in the right
direction. Just consider what has been accomplished in the last 12
months versus what has been accomplished in the last century."

"We have arrived at the point in our lives where we have no interest in
personal advancement, but only in what would be good for 'nuestra
gente,'" our people, they maintained.

Two Republicans who led the travel group paid for the ad: Carlos
Gutierrez, the U.S. commerce secretary under former President George W.
Bush, and Mike Fernandez, the Coral Gables healthcare magnate and top
financial backer of Jeb Bush's presidential campaign. Also signing the
letter were Miami attorney Ralph Patino; Public Health Trust Chairman
Joe Arriola; John McIntire, chairman of the Cuba Emprende Foundation,
which supports a business training program run by the Cuban Catholic
Church; Miami tech entrepreneur and investor Manny Medina; Ariel Pereda,
a businessman who facilitates trade to Cuba and is chairman of the
Engage Cuba Council; David Hernandez, chief executive of the Fort
Lauderdale-based Liberty Power; Juan Espinosa of The Espinosa Group, a
general contractor, and Enrique Sosa.

"It's so difficult to have a point of view understanding the changes
that are going on unless you go to Cuba," said Gutierrez, who visited
the island in August, for the first time since leaving as a child in
1960. He has returned three more times this year, including the trip in
early December.

Carlos Gutierrez, former U.S. secretary of commerce

"We didn't really have a political objective," Gutierrez added. "What we
see is an opening to see Cuban entrepreneurs, to help the Cuban economy
in a way that benefits the average Cuban, and we'd like to see how we
can help."

The Cuba policy has been harshly criticized by current and former
Cuban-American Republicans in Congress, including former Rep. Lincoln

"Cuban heroes and heroines being beaten arrested every day for
supporting freedom need our solidarity and help," he told the Herald.
"To the signers of this ad I would say: If you are unwilling to stand up
for those who suffer beatings and imprisonment in Cuba due to their
beliefs, you should at least have the decency to remain silent."

Fernandez, who has also been to Cuba four times this year, said that
despite vocal opponents, he was buoyed by warm reception to his
September op-ed in the Herald declaring his intent to help rebuild Cuba.
He hopes Sunday's ad might give social and political cover to others who
agree, even as repression on the island continues.

"There are many, many Cuban Americans in this community that are
concerned about coming out and saying, 'Let's give something else a
chance,'" Fernandez said. "Nothing else has worked up to now."

Source: Business leaders pen 'open letter' urging fellow Cuban Americans
to embrace U.S. policy changes | Miami Herald -

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