"The ascension of President Diaz-Canel marks a historic generational change in Cuba. While many will speculate on what this change will mean, much is unknown. What we do know is that the future of Cuba is for the Cuban people to decide, and we should play a constructive role in the process."
Today, Engage Cuba released a report that illustrates how the U.S. withdrawal from Cuba has enabled greater Russian and Chinese influence, threatening U.S. national security, compromising diplomatic aims, and hindering U.S. economic expansion in the region.
I recently sat down for a conversation with James Williams, President of Engage Cuba in Washington, D.C.
Engage Cuba is the bi-partisan non-profit organization representing business and private companies working to endtrade and travel restrictions against Cuba. They are a deeply committed organization involved in lobbying Congress to lift the embargo. Their prime focus is U.S.-Cuba legislative advocacy.
If the U.S. embargo on Cuba is lifted in the near future, one of the reasons why is starting to take shape right now in places that at first blush seem unlikely stakeholders in what happens between the two nations – Ohio, Tennessee, Louisiana and Minnesota.
And it will be thanks to an ambitious advocacy group that isn't even a year old.
Coalitions to push for an end to trade and travel restrictions with Cuba have formed in those states thanks to an effort by Engage Cuba – a D.C.-based advocacy group that includes political operatives from both sides of the aisle, business leaders, industry groups and corporations like Choice Hotels, Comcast and P&G – to build a movement across the country for congressional action on ending the trade and travel ban.
Business leaders in Ohio have been enlisted in the fight to end the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba.
Engage Cuba, a year-old Washington-based coalition of companies and organizations working to end the embargo, created the Ohio State Council in February in Cleveland. Ohio businesses stand to benefit from lifting the 55-year-old embargo, the coalition says.
When you meet James Williams it seems hard to believe that this apparently wet-behind-the-ears young man is the president of the most powerful coalition group that fosters a policy change towards the island nation: Engage Cuba. Moreover, it’s even harder to think that Williams is a strategist that has managed a three-million national campaign aimed at talking the Obama administration into changing relations with Havana.
The Engage Cuba Coalition, which supports lifting the U.S. trade embargo and travel ban on its island neighbor, is bringing its advocacy to Louisiana.
The bipartisan group launched earlier this year but has so far focused on lobbying Congress. Now the coalition wants to help local constituents who support better relations with Cuba express that message to their communities and their political representatives.
Engage Cuba, which formally launched last month, is led by political consultant James Williams and includes 15 major companies, trade associations and other groups including the National Association of Manufacturers, Consumer Electronics Association and Choice Hotels.
Following President Obama’s Dec. 17, 2014 announcement that the United States would work to normalize relations with Cuba, both pro- and anti-embargo groups in the United States began mobilizing. For one group, Engage Cuba, that mobilization resulted in an official launch on Tuesday, June 16, when the organization aired its first ad campaign on CNBC, MSNBC, and Fox News. By expanding its network of partners and overall influence in Congress, Engage Cuba endeavors to support continued U.S.-Cuban normalization and reform current travel and trade restrictions, according to the organization’s president, James Williams.
WASHINGTON – The bipartisan coalition “Engage Cuba,” an organization supporting an end to the U.S. embargo on the island, on Tuesday officially began its activities in Washington to promote policies to foster an opening toward Havana and increase the pressure on Congress for legislation to that effect.