A group of 250 Cuban businessmen sent a letter to US President Joe Biden on Monday, asking him to “return” to the policies of rapprochement that he defended when he was vice president of the Obama Administration, and denounce the “damaging impact ”Of the US sanctions for private enterprises and the lives of Cubans. “Through our businesses, we are working to build an economic well-being for our families, so that Cuban entrepreneurs do not feel the need to emigrate to have a rewarding job and economic prosperity,” say the signatories, who indicate that the current policy Washington “greatly affects” their “day-to-day business operations” and “slows down” their “ability to prosper.”
Since the Cuban Government authorized the creation of private companies at the end of September, 400 micro, small and medium-sized companies have already been established on the island – with legal personality and a maximum limit of 100 workers – and a new one has also been approved. ten non-agricultural cooperatives. Almost 54 years after the nationalization of all private businesses by Fidel Castro, the new SMEs – the head of the increasingly important private sector, which now encompasses 30% of the employed population – expose Biden to some of the difficulties they are going through due to to the current sanctions, approved by Donald Trump but that the new Administration has maintained, and that “directly undermine” their businesses. Among them, the entrepreneurs highlight “travel restrictions that limit the flow of American visitors”, something that “significantly reduces the demand for goods and services” offered by self-employed workers, many linked to tourism. “This, along with the closure of consular services, has limited our ability to travel to the US and directly purchase necessary supplies.”
They also mention “the cancellation of bank accounts in the United States for some Cuban entrepreneurs, [que] has made financial transactions much more difficult and expensive, even to receive payments online “, in addition to” measures taken against financial institutions “, which have caused payment and e-commerce platforms such as PayPal to stop providing services to Cuban entrepreneurs.
The 247 businessmen who signed the letter, supported by prestigious US academic institutions, such as WOLA (Washington Office on Latin America) or the CDA (Center for Democracy in the Americas), remind Biden that “the reforms in US policy carried out during his tenure as vice president they allowed to increase travel, telecommunications and financial services ”, boosting the Cuban private sector. “We dream,” they say, “of going back to those days, when rapprochement was official US policy, producing an economic boom that benefited us all.”
Sponsors of the letter ask the president to take urgent measures to increase travel, trade and investment, and four short-term actions: restore remittances (something that Biden promised in campaign, but has not done); “Open travel for those subject to US jurisdiction”; reopen the US Embassy in Havana; and remove Cuba from its list of countries that sponsor terrorism.
Oniel Díaz, co-founder of the private consulting firm AUGE, which advises numerous businesses and dozens of new SMEs, assured EL PAÍS that he had signed the letter because “the US sanctions substantially affect private entrepreneurship and the business environment” in the island and because they limit “the possibility of a prosperous and efficient economy, even if economic reforms are implemented, as the Cuban authorities are doing.” In a veiled allusion to the July 11 demonstrations and the march called for November 15, Díaz indicated that he also subscribed to the list of demands because “there is no domestic problem – which is for us to solve the Cubans, without interference-, that justifies the permanence of this policy of economic harassment ”.
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The letter to the US president comes to light when the US Administration has made it known that it no longer feels committed to changing Cuba’s policy towards the island, as Biden promised in the campaign. “Circumstances changed after the July 11 protests,” said Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor, days after it became known that the Administration had rejected a first proposal from the working group that studies how to “resume remittances to Cuba.” . This Monday, the spokesman for the State Department, Ned Price, affirmed that “if the repression and human rights abuses in Cuba do not stop,” there will be new sanctions.
For the emerging Cuban private sector, the internal situation in Cuba is one thing and the relations between the two governments are another. “We ask you to listen to us, Cuban entrepreneurs and private businessmen who live in Cuba, and not to a small community of Cuban Americans who do not speak out for our needs, desires and anxieties to build a future marked by understanding between our governments”, the entrepreneurs point out. And they conclude with an exhortation to Biden: “The policies of your Administration should not be aimed at causing us Cubans as much adversity and suffering as possible, but rather at how much they can improve our ability to prosper.”
Archipelago denounces the repression
On the same day that a group of Cuban private entrepreneurs released their letter to Biden, the Archipelago platform, convener of the call Civic march for change On November 15, he published an open letter to the international community in which he denounced “an escalation of human rights violations and repression” on the eve of the protest.
“Not satisfied with the intimidation, the authorities have had no qualms about inciting hatred and violence to the citizens. Government supporters are being encouraged to reduce, through the use of force, peaceful protesters this November 15. Meanwhile, citizens who express their dissatisfaction with the government are threatened with expulsions from work, intimidation in their emotional environments, lynchings on national television, prison and severe sanctions, “says Archipiélago, a digital platform that already has 31,000 members on and off the island.
The organizers of the march, declared illegal by the Government after considering it a “subversive maneuver” organized by the United States, invoke in their letter the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement signed by the European Union with Cuba in 2016, to request “accompaniment” of the EU that day. ”As actors of Cuban civil society that we are, we address the citizens of the member countries of the European Union to invite them to be aware of the streets next November 15th. We feel that the accompaniment of international actors could persuade the Cuban authorities to use violence against peaceful protesters ”. Archipelago has also called for protest caceroladas on November 14 and 15.
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