Living History: Cubans And Americans Embark On A Better Future

On Friday, August 14, 2015, the American flag rose above the U.S. Embassy in Havana for the first time since 1961 after more than half a century. Our Engage Cuba team had the privilege of attending the ceremony along with dozens of other Americans from diverse sectors, including Cuban-Americans, who all agreed it’s time for greater engagement with the Cuban people and this historic moment was a step in the right direction.

Later that afternoon, at a reception hosted at the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence, the Engage Cuba coalition celebrated with various member organizations, including the Center for Democracy in the Americas, #CubaNow, Procter & Gamble, the American Society of Travel Agents, Cuba Study Group, and the Washington Office on Latin America. The crowd also included notable members of Congress from both parties who have been strong advocates of U.S.-Cuba normalization, such as Senators Klobuchar, Flake, and Leahy, along with leaders of the American business community and with Cuban independent entrepreneurs and civil society leaders.

Being welcomed by Jeffrey DeLaurentis, U.S. Chargé d’Affairs to Cuba, and Secretary Kerry to this flag raising truly sent a strong message about what diplomatic ties can mean for Americans and American businesses. It’s the type of involvement that made it possible for us on the Engage Cuba team to spend the next several days meeting with Cuban entrepreneurs and thought leaders about new ways forward. We were motivated by the optimism and ingenuity that abounds throughout the island despite limited access to resources.

Among the entrepreneurs we met were an event planner; a promotional packaging supplier; a fashion designer; and a mobile app creator. These interactions reinforced our commitment to help unleash the potential of the Cuban economy by working with Congress to end the travel ban and lift the trade embargo. While we continue to work with Congress, we will also be identifying opportunities to support these entrepreneurs by connecting them with counterparts in the U.S.

When we were in Havana with so many friends and colleagues, we were reminded that the opening of the U.S. embassy in Cuba was the culmination of decades of hard work and that over 50 years of hostility has brought hardship and difficulty for people on both sides of the Florida Straits. We are now moving forward on a better path, but we will not forget their struggles. We honor the past by building a better future for both countries.

Thank you to everyone who has worked to make this new moment possible.

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Miami Herald: Behind the scenes of U.S.-Cuba turnaround

James Williams, director of the lobbying group Engage Cuba and former director of public policy with Trimpa Group, told Kornbluh and LeoGrande the polls would show the "ample support for change" and "give a voice to the silent majority." The authors describe the polls as an attempt of the Trimpa Group to "bolster" the argument that there would not be a setback for Florida Democrats if Obama changed his policy toward Cuba.

 

Mother Jones: Inside the Crazy Back Channel Negotiations that Revolutionized our Relationship with Cuba

The polls were intended to "show broad support for change," "create a new normal," and "give voice to the silent majority," says James Williams, the political operative who oversaw the Trimpa Group's efforts.

 

Travel Weekly: ASTA president attends embassy flag-raising in Cuba

“ASTA is honored to have been witness to this milestone event in the new course in U.S. relations with Cuba," [CEO Zane] Kerby said in a statement. "We have long believed that allowing Americans to travel across the globe without restriction enables them to act as ambassadors of freedom, and we pledge to do all we can in conjunction with the Administration, the Congress and key allies such as Engage Cuba to ensure that Americans are free to travel to Cuba without constraint from their own government."

 

Examiner: U.S. travel industry officials witness flag-raising in Havana

As a founding member of the Engage Cuba coalition, ASTA is supporting legislation pending in Congress, the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act (S.299/H.R. 664), introduced in the Senate by Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and in the House by Reps. Mark Sanford (R-SC) and Jim McGovern (D-MA), that would fully repeal restrictions on travel by American citizens and legal residents to Cuba in their entirety.

 

Foreign Policy: A Cuban Conundrum

The new advocacy organization Engage Cuba has managed to bring diverse constituencies from the private sector, think tank community, and moderate Cuban America under its tent to push for fully open travel and commerce. Although coalition members from the U.S. hospitality industry, agricultural lobbies, and electronics manufacturers may be most concerned about their bottom lines, the Cuban American group #CubaNow (also an Engage Cuba partner) has pushed for dialogue and investment as a better way to promote democracy, human rights, and open markets in Cuba.

 

Bloomberg: A Breakout Year for Cuba’s Entrepreneurs

Cuba’s private sector may seem awkwardly DIY, but it’s the fastest-growing part of an otherwise moribund economy, fueling almost 10 percent of gross domestic product. President Raúl Castro says private business is part of Cuba’s new economic model.

In the past few years, almost 500,000 Cubans have registered as tax-paying private businesspeople, but economists figure the actual number is closer to 2 million—40 percent of the workforce—including state workers and farmers who moonlight in the private sector.

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ABC (Spain): Seis meses de gestos en el deshielo entre EE.UU. y Cuba

16 junio.- La coalición bipartidista «Engage Cuba», una organización a favor del fin del embargo de EEUU hacia la isla, se presenta oficialmente en Washington, para promover políticas aperturistas con La Habana.

 

Periodista Digital: El cardenal Ortega le entregó carta del Papa a Obama en reunión secreta

Patty Ebrahimi nació en Cuba y, según comentó Williams, estaba "frustrada de que el gobierno le dijera que no podía viajar" a la isla. Como ya no tenía familiares vivos en Cuba, Ebrahimi sólo podía viajar con las restricciones impuestas por las regulaciones de los "viajes pueblo a pueblo".

Williams dijo a El Nuevo Herald que la campaña montada por Trimpa tuvo otros donantes, pero no reveló más detalles. También aclaró que el grupo "asesora a los donantes, que quieren ver progreso en determinados temas y crea una estrategia política para ellos. Conectamos donantes con causas pero no pagamos directamente o damos el dinero".