Cuban entrepreneurs to Trump: Don't abandon us
WASHINGTON — More than 100 newly independent Cuban business owners sent President-elect Donald Trump a letter Wednesday pleading with him not to rupture diplomatic ties and to protect the economic gains they've reaped.
Senior members of Congress hosted four visiting entrepreneurs from Havana in the first salvo of what promises to be an extended political battle over the future of U.S.-Cuba relations after Trump takes office next month.
“I hope that the next president of the United States, as a businessman, understands our needs,” Yamina Vicente, whose Decorazon company plans weddings and other events, said at a briefing on Capitol Hill.
“A few years ago, a new era of dreams in Cuba began,” she said. “I hope that my children will be able to dream too.”
The letter to Trump began by congratulating him on his victory last month over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“As a successful businessman, we're confident that you understand the importance of economic engagement between nations,” the entrepreneurs wrote. “Small businesses in Cuba have the potential to be drivers of economic growth in Cuba and important partners of the U.S. business community.”
Rep. Kathy Castro, a Democrat from Tampa, Fla., rejected the widespread impression that the state's large Cuban-American population opposes improved relations with Havana.
“Florida is not monolithic when it comes to Cuba,” she said.
Money sent from Cubans in Florida and elsewhere to their families in Cuba, Castro said, has helped private businesses there expand.
Cuban President Raul Castro, who took over the country's presidency when his brother, Fidel Castro, fell ill in 2006, instituted reforms in 2012 that allowed limited private business in the communist country. Fidel Castro died late last month and his ashes were interred on Sunday.
Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia also advocated for preserving Obama's easing of relations with Cuba, noting that last year, Virginia sold $42 million in agricultural products to Cuba.
“Virginia farmers want to have this market open,” Warner said.
Warner is co-sponsoring one of several bills in Congress that would lift entirely the economic embargo that President John F. Kennedy imposed in 1962, a few months before the Cuban missile crisis put the world on the brink of nuclear war.