By: Jim DeFede
More than a hundred entrepreneurs from Cuba are urging President-elect Donald Trump to continue pushing forward changes to U.S. policy that allow for travel, trade and investment with the island nation neighbor.
The group delivered a letter signed by some of Cuba’s most important private business owners, including restaurants, bed & breakfasts, car services, hair salons, tech companies, as well as professionals in accounting, design and construction, asking to maintain regulatory changes that help their businesses.
“Reforms made by the U.S. government to allow for increased travel, telecom services and banking have helped substantially as we attempt to grow our businesses,” they wrote. “We’ve seen significant growth in small businesses in our country. Over a half of million people now work in the private sector, earning considerably more money than state jobs and offering more autonomy in business decisions.”
They’re hoping the billionaire businessman will see the “importance of economic engagement between nations.”
“Small businesses in Cuba have the potential to be drivers of economic growth and important partners of the U.S. business community,” they stated. “Additional measures to increase travel, trade and investment, including working with the U.S. Congress to lift the embargo, will benefit our companies, the Cuban people and U.S. national interests.”
Earlier this year, Cuba opened its doors to travel from the U.S. for the first time in more than five decades when Carnival Cruise lines set sail with 700 passengers from Port Miami. Six months later, the island welcomed its first American flight.
For Cubans, renewed relations between the countries go beyond the benefit of corporations and travelers.
“We cannot turn our backs on Cuban entrepreneurs at this pivotal moment in time,” said Collin Laverty, president of Cuba Educational Travel. “Increased travel and trade with the U.S. has driven demand for their products and services, and there is no greater way to support them than direct interaction with the American people.”
Trump, however, has said before that he would consider terminating the current deal President Obama made with Cuba.
“Look, Cuba has to treat us fairly and it has to treat the people of Cuba fairly,” Trump told CBS4’s Jim DeFede. “The agreement President Obama signed is a very weak agreement. We get nothing. The people of Cuba get nothing.”
That doesn’t mean the President-elect won’t be willing to deal.
“I like the idea of an agreement, but it has to be a real agreement,” he said. “So if you call it that for negotiation purposes, whatever you have to do to make a great deal for the people of Cuba.”