WASHINGTON, D.C. – A group of entrepreneurs from Cuba is urging President-elect Donald Trump to keep the changes in trade and travel that began almost two years ago and which they say are improving life on the long-isolated island.
On Wednesday, the group of Cuban entrepreneurs released a letter signed by over 100 Cuban private business owners sent to Trump in which they said: “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,” the letter said.
“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.”
Four entrepreneurs participated in a press conference on Wednesday in Washington, D.C., along with groups that favor lifting the U.S.-Cuba embargo.
When Fidel Castro died, Trump tweeted, “If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban-American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal.”
That created concern among proponents of restored diplomatic relations that Trump would undo all the changes the Obama administration undertook, by easing trade and travel restrictions.
“As a businessman, Mr. Trump would be proud of the entrepreneurial spirit of the Cuban people,” James William, president of Engage Cuba, a national advocacy organization dedicated to dismantling the U.S. embargo on Cuba, said. “These changes have helped Cuba's private sector grow and are widely supported across the island.”
At the press conference Marta Elisa Deus Rodriguez, one of the entrepreneurs, said “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.”
She fears that if the policy does change, her business will suffer.
Julia de la Rosa and her husband have run a bed and breakfast more than 20 years. And when the U.S. and Cuba re-established relations and Airbnb came to Cuba, their business was able to grow. They have had hundreds of visitors in the past 18 months, and increasing their staff to 17 people.
“I hope that President elect-Trump recognizes how much these changes have helped us. We want to improve our relations with the U.S. and think about the future and what our two countries can accomplish together,” de la Rosa said.
According to Reuters, private businesses still have no access to wholesale stores and can only import or export goods via government agencies.