New Jersey State Council
Gordon Johnson, Assemblyman, New Jersey General Assembly
Stephanie Macias-Arlington, Executive Director,
Seton Hall University Joseph A. Unanue Latino Institute
New Jersey Farm Bureau
Declan O'Scanlon, State Senator, New Jersey State Senate
Doug Palmer, Former President, U.S. Conference of Mayors; Former Mayor, City of Trenton
Anthony Perry, Mayor, Township of Middletown
Bob Prunetti, Former County Executive, County of Mercer
Daniel Reiman, Mayor, Borough of Carteret
Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, Assemblywoman, New Jersey General Assembly
Anthony Russo, President, Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey
William w. Spearman, assemblyman, new jersey state council
Bert Steinmann, Mayor, Township of Ewing
Meagan Warner, Board Member, Upper Hunterdon School District
Shariq Ahmad, Edison Democrat Committee Chair, Town of Edison
Tom Arnone, Freeholder Director, Monmouth County
Jennifer Beck, Former State Senator, New Jersey State Senate
Helen Black, CubaOne Fellow, Montclair, NJ
Jerrell Blakley, Council Member, City of Trenton
John Burzichelli, Assemblyman, New Jersey General Assembly
Joe Danielsen, Assemblyman, New Jersey General Assembly
Serena DiMaso, Assemblywoman, New Jersey General Assembly
Roy Freiman, Assemblyman, New Jersey General AssemblY
John Giotis, Board Member, Raritan Valley Community College Foundation
Reed Gusciora, Mayor, City of Trenton
John Harmon, CEO, New Jersey African American Chamber of Commerce
New Jersey & Cuba in the News
PRESS RELEASE: NEW JERSEY LEADERS LAUNCH ENGAGE CUBA STATE COUNCIL
A few weeks ago Major League Baseball thought it had solved its Cuban problem. The Cubans thought so, too. They even provided MLB with a list of 43 players eligible to be signed by big league clubs in 2019.
Alas, a few days later that list became worthless. So was MLB’s deal with the Cubans.
According to the arrangement, Cuban players would be treated much the same way Japanese players are treated. A young Cuban player would be expected to spend six years playing in the Cuban Baseball Federation. After that he would be “posted” which would allow him to sign with a major league club. That club would a pay a fee for the rights to the player. That’s almost identical to the arrangement with the Japanese professional leagues that’s been in place for years.
There’s only one difference. In the case of the Japanese player the rights fee is paid to his former club. In the case of the Cuban player, it’s paid to the Cuban Baseball Federation.
Yet there’s another difference — a REALLLY BIG difference. Japan has been a reliable American ally since 1946. It’s government has no adversaries within the United States. That’s certainly not the case with Cuba.
Not too long ago most Americans saw Cuba as a dangerous enemy. Under Fidel Castro, Cuba allied itself with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. It attempted to spread its revolution into other parts of Latin America and at one point even permitted the Soviets to place their deadly missiles on the island.
Castro is dead and the Cold War is over. But not everyone in America is willing to put all that into the history books and move on — especially not some 50,000 people who live in a section of Miami known as Little Havana.
Little Havana was created by refugees who fled Cuba shortly after Castro seized power in 1959. Today it is populated primarily by the children and grandchildren of those refugees, but they are people who still maintain their bitterness towards the Cuban government. Among them is Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American who is now the senior U.S. Senator from the state of Florida.
The ink had hardly dried on the deal between MLB and the Cubans when Rubio spoke out forcefully against it. He said it was unthinkable, to him, that Major League Baseball should be giving money to the Cuban government and he would urge President Donald Trump to use his power to reject the deal.
Trump did exactly that and effectively squashed the deal.
MLB responded weakly that it would be making payments only to the Cuban Baseball Federation — not the government. In reality, the CBF is controlled and financed by the government, so Rubio’s contention is perfectly valid. MLB should have conceded that point and gone on to the real issue:
This arrangement would be infinitely superior to the status quo.
Every Cuban currently playing in the major leagues has been forced to defect from his country and renounce his citizenship. In most cases he came through a third country and was delivered to the United States by an agent (read trafficker) who demanded a sizeable portion of the player’s signing bonus as payment.
MLB has never been comfortable with that process, but for years it didn’t have a way to stop it. Only after 2015, when the U.S. resumed diplomatic ties with Cuba, did it see a way out of the mess. It could now legally negotiate with the Cubans and this deal was the result.
The player could leave Cuba legally and keep his signing bonus. The traffickers would be out of business. Everybody would benefit. Everybody would rejoice.
Well, almost everybody.
The President of the United States killed the deal.
I don’t know for sure why Trump acted as he did but I do know there will be a presidential election next year and Florida is considered a swing state. It is probably good politics on the part of Trump — and also Rubio — to keep the folks in Little Havana happy.
I’ll give them that. It was very good politics.
But it was also lousy government.
Joe Guerriero: Waiting For Normal, Cuba and the United States. May 30 to July 10
Joe Guerriero, a New Jersey photographer and filmmaker, has spent 20 years visiting Cuba and documenting its people, art, music and culture while at the same time documenting the effects of the U.S. embargo. The photography exhibition will include a screening of Guerriero’s documentary “Curtain of Water” which addresses the embargo through conversations with people from all walks of life, in and outside of Cuba, while shedding light on the political and human sides of the conflict.
"Removing trade restrictions on Cuba could bring new opportunities to New Jersey’s top export industries while creating jobs across the state. At a time when New Jersey is facing a billion-dollar budget shortfall and certain industries fall victim to trade disputes, opening up new markets is the key to strengthening New Jersey's economy," said James Williams, President of Engage Cuba.
A group of political and business leaders from across New Jersey launched a bipartisan council to urge Congress to lift trade and travel restrictions on Cuba.The effort makes New Jersey the 19th state to join Engage Cuba, a D.C.-based advocacy organization dedicated to advancing federal legislation to lift the embargo on Cuba.
A member of the new council, Assemblyman Gordon Johnson, D-Bergen, said the U.S. could be in a better position to push for Chesimard’s extradition. “Many of us in New Jersey have close ties with the Cuban people, and we should foster that connection." Johnson said. "Both countries have so much to offer each other. We cannot allow the economic and social isolation of the Cuban people to prevent us from continuing to advocate for our interests in Cuba — like the return of Joanne Chesimard.”
New Jersey Globe: Group Seeks End to Trade, Travel Restrictions with Cuba
The bipartisan state council includes State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon (R-Little Silver), Assembly Speaker Pro-Tempore Gordon Johnson (D-Englewood), Trenton mayor Reed Gusciora, and Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey president Anthony Russo.
Prominent leaders from across the state launched the bipartisan Engage Cuba New Jersey State Council. The council will build statewide support for pro-engagement policies and urge Congress to lift trade and travel restrictions on Cuba that disadvantage New Jerseyans and Cubans alike. Removing sanctions on Cuba could both expand opportunities for New Jersey businesses and empower the Cuban people.
History was made when President Obama called for an end to the Cuban trade embargo in his final State of the Union. It's a topic deserving of attention, especially because of what a policy change on U.S. trade with Cuba could mean for the people of New Jersey and for businesses operating in the Garden State.
Star Ledger Editorial Board: End the Cuban travel ban
Granted, there are times when an economic embargo makes sense, such as in the case of South Africa during the Apartheid era, or Iran today. But in those cases, the embargoes had global support. In Cuba, we are all alone. The embargo does not have enough teeth to bring down the Castro regime, and in fact has provided a convenient alibi for the poverty caused by its misrule. On the international scene, it has done more to isolate the United States than Havana.