masseuse in Cuba

There’s a Surge in D.C. This Week to Promote Cuba’s Emerging Private Sector

Today, four Cuban private business owners will join U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) and a bipartisan group of other congressional leaders in a news conference on Capitol Hill to discuss how U.S. regulatory changes to Cuba sanctions are allowing Cuba’s private sector to grow.

Rox jewelry cuba
Rosana Vargas. Image by Wes Wagner

The members of the bipartisan coalition will discuss the need for Congress to act to lift the U.S. embargo on Cuba that is hurting American businesses and the Cuban people.  Four Cuban entrepreneurs will describe how U.S. regulatory changes have helped their businesses and the Cuban people.

The Cuban entrepreneurs will urge President-elect Trump and the new administration not to reverse the U.S. regulatory changes that are broadly supported by the Cuban people.

Here are the people appearing at the news conference today:

At the press conference, Marta Elisa Deus Rodriguez, founder of Deus Expertos Contables, which provides accounting and financial services for private businesses in Cuba, said, “after receiving my MBA in Spain, I returned to my home country of Cuba because I thought it would be possible to start my career in business. I now own three businesses and I want to grow all of them, and that’s why I hope the new Administration does not change this policy. I fear that if we turn the clock back, my business will suffer.”
Julia de la Rosa and her husband have run La Rosa de Ortega bed and breakfast for 20 years. Julia said, “When the U.S. and Cuba re-established relations, and Airbnb arrived in Cuba, it was a game changer for us. We have seen our business grow so much the past 18 months and have hosted hundreds of visitors. We now have 17 people working with us. I am so proud of what we have been able to accomplish. I hope that President-Elect Trump recognizes how much these changes have helped us. We don’t want to go back, we don’t want to focus on our differences, we want to improve our relations with the U.S. and think about the future and what our two countries can accomplish together.”

Marla Recio Carbajal, founder and president of Havana Reverie, an upscale event and wedding planning company that caters primarily to U.S. travelers and companies, also participated in the press conference. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Havana, Marla decided to pursue a master’s degree from the University of California, San Diego. “I decided to go back and start an event planning company in Havana, specifically for American clients. This was possible because of the combination of Raul Castro opening Cuba’s private sector and an improvement in U.S.-Cuba relations. Now, with the easing of travel restrictions, more Americans are visiting the island and that’s helped my business grow. I want to be in Havana and I look forward to a future that is better for the American and the Cuban people.”

Yamina Vicente is an event planner and interior decorator who started her business, Decorazon, five years ago after receiving her MBA. She’s seen considerable growth and has taken advantage of Cuba’s expanding Internet access to create partnerships with more than a dozen other private businesses. “I am here today with one hope: to not go backwards, to maintain the achievements we’ve made, to continue the positive change and growth for those that want a more prosperous country. I trust that Mr. Trump, as a businessman, understands our needs. A few years ago, a new era of hope began for Cubans. It is critical that we work together to not interrupt that progress, and instead empower those dreams.”

A Letter to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump

Also this week, Reuters is reporting that more than 100 Cuban small business owners sent a letter to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday urging him to continue President Barack Obama’s engagement with Havana, despite Trump’s threat to end detente with the communist-ruled island.

The appeal to Trump from Cuba’s fledgling private sector underscored increased uncertainty about future relations between the two former Cold War foes, given his vow to halt what he called Obama’s “deal” with Havana unless it agreed to new terms with Washington.

Obama administration officials, seeking to further cement changes before Trump takes office on Jan. 20, were due to hold talks with Cuban counterparts in Havana on Wednesday. It was the first such meeting since the election of Trump and the death of Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro.

“As a businessman, Mr. Trump would be proud of the entrepreneurial spirit of the Cuban people. These changes have helped Cuba’s private sector grow and are widely supported across the island,” said James Williams, President of Engage Cuba, a national advocacy organization dedicated to dismantling the U.S. embargo on Cuba. “There is no business in the world that would continue a strategy that has failed for 55 years. We see no reason why he would do the same with the U.S. government. We’re hopeful that he will continue to build on the progress of the last two years that has helped U.S. businesses and created positive changes for the Cuban people.”

Here’s the letter:

Dear President Elect Donald Trump:

Congratulations on your election as president of the United States. The Cuban people, particularly the private sector in Cuba, watched the election with much interest. As you know, U.S. policy towards Cuba greatly affects our day-to-day reality, including our commercial relationship with the United States and the rest of the world.

As Cuban entrepreneurs, we have experienced a great deal of change over the last several years. Changes by our government allow for increased private sector activity and 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. We’re hopeful that our government will make additional changes to the legal framework and market conditions in the future.

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. An influx of American and Cuban American visitors stimulates growth for our businesses, directly and indirectly. Better internet and long-distance calling improves marketing, product sourcing and interaction with customers. Improved banking relations to facilitate payments by U.S. companies and U.S. travelers is key to long-term growth. Increased interaction and business dealings with U.S. travelers and U.S. companies has had important economic benefits, the exchanges of ideas and knowledge, and offered much hope for the future.

As a successful businessman, we’re confident that you understand the importance of economic engagement between nations. Small businesses in Cuba have the potential to be drivers of economic growth in Cuba and important partners of the U.S. business community. 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. We look forward to taking advantage of any openings that your administration makes to the Cuban private sector and the Cuban economy as a whole.


There’s a Surge in D.C. This Week to Promote Cuba’s Emerging Private Sector was last modified: December 7th, 2016 by Cuba Journal