Tag Archives: Cuban Diaspora

DE CÓMO LOS MARIELITOS CATAPULTARON A DAVID CARD AL PREMIO NOBEL DE ECONOMÍA 2021

CiberCuba 17 Octubre 2021.

Articulo Original: Los Marielitos Y  El Premio Nobel

Los patrones de análisis del “caso Mariel” revolucionaron indudablemente los enfoques posteriores sobre la relación entre inmigración, oportunidades de empleo y educación, y consolidaron la fama de Card como un adelantado en el estudio de los mercados laborales.

El profesor y economista canadiense David Card Foto © University of California at Berkeley

La noticia se escurrió entre los agasajos y las exaltaciones que comporta el nombramiento de un Premio Nobel, pero el tema cubano se asomó este año en la selección de la Real Academia de las Ciencias de Suecia para determinar a los ganadores del galardón en la rama económica.

El pasado 11 de octubre, el Premio Nobel de Economía fue entregado, de manera compartida, al canadiense David Card, y al dúo compuesto por el israelí-estadounidense Joshua David Angrist y Guido Imbens, de origen holandés. Los tres considerados especialistas luminarias en materia de economía laboral.

En el caso de Card, profesor de la Universidad de California en Berkeley, se trata de una personalidad pionera en el uso de una original metodología de experimentos naturales para indagar los efectos de la inmigración y del salario mínimo en el mercado laboral. Pero muchos desconocen que lo que catapultó su fama, consolidó sus hallazgos científicos y lo posicionó como uno de los economistas prominentes en el ámbito internacional fue un estudio realizado sobre el éxodo del Mariel en 1980.

La historia de su interés en el fenómeno de los “marielitos” se remonta a 1983, cuando Card obtuvo un doctorado en Economía en Princeton bajo la tutela del profesor Orley Ashenfelter, uno de los adelantados economistas que se arriesgó a fomentar el uso de métodos empíricos para explorar los mercados laborales. El profesor Ashenfelter motivó a su nuevo estudiante de posgrado a que investigara si los programas de formación para trabajadores desfavorecidos o personas desempleadas resultaban realmente efectivos.

Card terminó por organizar el estudio como un experimento científico aplicando lo que él definió como “métodos estadísticos econométricos más sofisticados” para analizar los datos obtenidos. La investigación obtuvo resultados sorprendentes a los ojos del Departamento de Trabajo de Estados Unidos, que le posibilitó financiamiento para emprender otros proyectos de interés social.

Las bases de experimentación quedaron establecidas para que en 1990 Card viera la oportunidad de realizar una investigación más amplia que abarcara la relación entre los empleos, los salarios y la inmigración. La integración de la fuerza laboral de los marielitos en el área de Miami, que asimiló más de la mitad de los 125,000 cubanos llegados durante el éxodo de 1980, era el laboratorio perfecto para comprobar sus teorías nada convencionales.

Card se dio cuenta de que estaba ante un singular experimento natural que raramente los economistas se disponen a investigar. El foco de su estudio estuvo en indagar el efecto de la oleada de inmigrantes en las oportunidades de empleo de los trabajadores locales de Miami, toda vez que los marielitos aumentaron en un 7% la mano de obra en las ocupaciones e industrias menos cualificadas.

El economista diseccionó la manera en que Miami logró absorber la avalancha de inmigrantes cubanos y comparó los indicadores económicos locales con los de otras ciudades estadounidenses. Los resultados de la investigación causaron una verdadera conmoción en tanto desacralizaban mitos inamovibles sobre el impacto de los inmigrantes en las tasas de desempleo y los salarios.

Luego de estudiar los datos desde múltiples ángulos estadísticos, Card demostró, a contracorriente de las convicciones de varios de sus colegas, que los cubanos recién llegados no tuvieron ningún efecto ni en los salarios ni en los índices de desempleo de los trabajadores no cubanos de Miami, y consiguieron una “rápida absorción” en la fuerza laboral de la comunidad.

La revelación sobre el fenómeno del Mariel en Miami echó por tierra la teoría económica clásica y Card se vio envuelto entonces en un fuego cruzado de críticas. Pero el estudio sobre el Mariel fue durante años el más citado en materia económica en Estados Unidos y foros internacionales, y aún sigue desatando controversias entre sus antagonistas, quienes aseguran que el economista canadiense interpretó erróneamente los datos.

Pero los patrones de análisis del “caso Mariel” revolucionaron indudablemente los enfoques posteriores sobre la relación entre inmigración, oportunidades de empleo y calificación laboral.

En 1995 recibió la medalla John Bates Clark, concedida a “aquel economista estadounidense menor de 40 años que ha hecho la contribución más significativa al pensamiento y al conocimiento económico”, en referencia a su investigación sobre el éxodo del Mariel en Miami.

El comité del Premio Nobel reconoció a Card “por sus contribuciones empíricas a la economía del trabajo”, y justificó su designación con los argumentos siguientes:

“Utilizando experimentos naturales, David Card ha analizado los efectos en el mercado laboral de los salarios mínimos, la inmigración y la educación. Sus estudios de comienzos de la década de los 90 desafiaron la sabiduría convencional, dando lugar a nuevos análisis y conocimientos adicionales. Los resultados mostraron, entre otras cosas, que el aumento del salario mínimo no conduce necesariamente a un menor número de puestos de trabajo. Ahora sabemos que los ingresos de las personas que han nacido en un país pueden beneficiarse de la nueva inmigración, mientras que las personas que inmigraron en una época anterior corren el riesgo de verse afectadas negativamente. También nos hemos percatado de que los recursos de las escuelas son mucho más importantes para el futuro éxito de los estudiantes en el mercado laboral de lo que se pensaba”. 

La contribución de los “marielitos” a la sociedad estadounidense está fuera de toda discusión, como también resulta sustancial su aporte al sostenimiento de la familia cubana en la isla. Pero lo que nunca pudo vislumbrar Fidel Castro cuando lanzó la rotunda afirmación de que “no los queremos, no los necesitamos” es que 41 años después de la forzosa estampida estarían reconocidos como una inusual fuerza de renovación en la economía laboral de Estados Unidos, asociados nada menos que a la designación de un Premio Nobel de Economía.

Una conexión cubana que tiene sobradas razones para instalarse en el beneplácito nacional, aunque cueste todavía salir del asombro. 

Marielitows, Preparaciones, Verano de 1994
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CUBAN BASEBALL PLAYERS DEFECT DURING TOURNAMENT IN MEXICO

BBC, October 4, 2021

Original Article: Cuban baseball players defect

At least nine young Cuban baseball players have defected during a tournament in Mexico, officials say, in the largest defection of Cuban athletes in years.

Cuban officials called the players’ actions during the World Cup for athletes under the age of 23 “vile abandonments”, state media report.

The rest of the team, which originally had 24 players, will return on Monday.

Cuban athletes have a long history of defecting while competing abroad.

Baseball players often leave to sign up with Major League Baseball (MLB) clubs in the US, as strained relations between the US and Cuba prevent them from taking part in a regular hiring process.

The statement by Cuba’s National Sports Institute, published on the official JIT website and quoted by the Associated Press news agency, did not name the players who had stayed in Mexico.

But baseball journalist Francys Romero said a total of 12 players had defected.

A deal that allowed some Cuban players to sign with MLB clubs was cancelled by President Donald Trump in 2018, in an attempt to pressure the island’s Communist government to implement political changes. The agreement meant athletes no longer had to abscond and leave Cuba illegally.

Defections of high-profile sportsmen and women from Cuba is nothing new – but is always an indication of the extent of the problems at home. And if this latest round of pitchers, batters and catchers to flee their hotel in Mexico is anything to go by, economic conditions on the island are especially acute at present.

The mass defection is of particular frustration and embarrassment to the Cuban authorities not only for the number of players to defect at once, but also their ages. In their early 20s, they represented the future of Cuban baseball, charged with returning Cuba to the top after the island failed to qualify for the Olympics in Tokyo 2020 for the first time in its history.

Unsurprisingly, the government responded by attacked the players for being “weak” in morals and ethics. However, its main criticism was for the US for maintaining the decades-long economic embargo while offering such lucrative contracts that the cream of Cuban baseball can hardly refuse. Cuba also accuses the MLB of engaging in practices tantamount to human-smuggling in order to bring the players to the US.

The truth is, however, as long as those multi-million dollar contracts and endorsements are available just 90 miles (145km) away from Cuba, defection will remain a sorely tempting option for any aspiring baseball star on the increasingly impoverished island.

The most recent high-profile player to defect was 22-year-old César Prieto, one of the country’s top baseball stars, who abandoned the team earlier this year while in Florida for an Olympics qualifying event.

Ballet dancers and footballers are also among athletes who have fled during major competitions.

Cuba is in the midst of an economic crisis, with food and medicine shortages, and has been hit hard by US sanctions and Covid-19. In July, thousands of people joined the biggest anti-government protests in the island for decades.

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CHANGES IN CUBAN SOCIETY SINCE THE NINETIES

Wilson Center Reports on the Americas No. 15: Changes in Cuban Society since the Nineties

By  Joseph Tulchin, Lilian Bobea, Elizabeth Bryan and 2 more

Complete Report: Changes in Cuban Society since the Nineties

This book aims to provide academics, policymakers, NGOs and the media in Cuba, Latin America and North America, with a better understanding of the changes in Cuban civil society since the collapse of the Soviet Union and their implications in the areas of research, academic and literary production, and public policy. It presents and assesses critically the changes that have taken place in Cuban society, economy, politics, and culture as Cuba emerges from the crisis of the 1990s.  This volume also aspires to contribute in a meaningful way to the political debate in the United States and to the dialogue between the United States and Cuba.  It brings together contrasting perspectives marked by occasionally opposing views from both within and outside the island.  It is the result of a seminar held in the Dominican Republic in December 2003 under the auspices of the Latin American Program of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Facultad Latinoamericano de Ciencias Sociales, with the generous contribution of The Ford Foundation.

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WHY FLORIDA’S CUBAN POPULATION IS SUSCEPTIBLE TO TRUMP’S PROPAGANDA

Opinion by Alexandra Martinez

CNN, Updated 6:32 PM ET, Wed September 30, 2020

Original Article: Cuban-American Susceptibility to Trump’s Propaganda

Why Florida is a battleground state like no other

Alexandra Martinez is an award-winning Cuban American writer based in Miami, Florida. Her work has appeared in Vice, Catapult Magazine, and Miami New Times. Find her at alexandra-martinez.net. The views expressed in this commentary are her own.

 

Alexandra Martinez

On a blistering August morning in 1973, my grandparents, mom and aunt left Cuba. My maternal grandparents had met as a result of the Revolution; my abuela (grandmother) was a volunteer teacher in the literacy movement, and my abuelo (grandfather) was a technician and organizer who helped remove the previous dictator, Fulgencio Batista, and was exiled to Venezuela.

After 1959, he was allowed to return and was celebrated by the Revolution. As the years passed, their living conditions and civil liberties withered. It became abundantly clear that Cuban dictator Fidel Castro would not uphold the rights of the people they had fought for. They spent five years being called gusanos (worms) while my abuelo labored in a forced-work agricultural camp to earn his family’s exit. When they were granted permission to leave, they left behind everything they had ever known: generations of family, their homes, and a bittersweet love for their island. Their only solace was the flickering thought that their young daughters would have a better life.

Today, my 80-year-old abuela lives in her dream home in the predominantly Latino suburb of Miami, Kendall, a house she and my late abuelo built as the fruit of their decades of labor, wistful regret, and trauma after leaving their homeland. Her story is not unlike those of others in Miami’s Cuban-born community, which in 2017 accounted for more than a quarter of Miami-Dade County’s population and six percent of Florida’s voting power, according to 2016 exit polls.

Continue Reading: Cuban-American Susceptibility to Trump’s Propaganda

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TRUMP CONNED MIAMI’S CUBAN-AMERICAN SUPPORTERS WHILE CHASING BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES IN CUBA

By Fabiola Santiago

Miami Herald, September 22, 2020 05:35 PM,
Once again, the truth about what President Donald Trump really thinks about Cuba has come to light.

He may peddle the hard line to his Republican Cuban-American supporters in Miami, but when he looks south of the city, he only sees dollar signs.

He promises that he won’t do business until Cuba is free of the Castro brothers’ regime — and prohibits Americans from traveling to the island — but Trump and his team have been chasing business opportunities in Cuba for the past decade.

A new el Nuevo Herald report has unearthed more proof of how seriously Trump tried to gain a foothold in Cuba, despite the U.S. embargo that’s in place.

Documents show that the president applied to register his Trump trademark in Cuba in 2008 so he could conduct business and invest in real estate. His plans included not only erecting a Trump Tower in Havana and putting a golf course in Varadero and other possible sites, but building casinos as well.

To do so, Trump hired a Cuban lawyer on the island, Leticia Laura Bermúdez Benítez.

A screenshot of the Cuban Industrial Property Office website shows details of the Trump trademark application — which included beauty pageants.

A screenshot of the Cuban Industrial Property Office website showing details of the Trump trademark registered in Cuba. 

Trump plays both sides

To truly gauge Trump’s cretinous hustler nature, you have to go back to 1999 when he was already courting Cuban Americans with anti-Fidel Castro rhetoric and hinting at a presidential run.

He was betting on an aging Castro dying soon. The way Trump saw it, the wealthy members of the Cuban American National Foundation were going to be the ones calling the shots on the island.

“So what Jorge is saying is that when Cuba is free, I get the first hotel? Is that true? Sounds like a good deal to me,” Trump quipped during a CANF speech, referring to Jorge Mas Santos, who had taken the reins of the influential organization after his father died in 1997.

Ever the Conman: Trump courting the Cuban  American National Foundation – while registering his brand in Cuba.

It was a crass thing to say — and harmful to efforts to democratize Cuba, and not install a U.S. puppet government to service the likes of Trump — but Cuban Americans laughed and later applauded him.

That year, Trump also wrote an op-ed in the Miami Herald slamming Castro, which prompted the Brigade 2506, veterans of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961, to correspond with Trump and begin a relationship that would culminate with their endorsement in 2016 and again in 2020.
See also: Herald falsely claims as its own, story on Trump and his interest in Cuban hotels disclosed by Progreso Weekly, By Álvaro Fernández Last updated Sep 30, 2020

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THE 2020 FIU CUBA POLL: BEHIND THE PARTISAN NOISE, A MAJORITY OF CUBAN-AMERICANS SUPPORT ENGAGEMENT POLICY.

Read the full 2020 FIU CUBA POLL report here.

The results of the 2020 FIU Cuba Poll suggest the link between political party and Cuba policy preferences among Cuban-Americans is not as clearly defined as it used to be. Put another way, although a majority of Cuban-Americans respond postively to Trump’s anti-socialist rhetoric, most still support engagement policies that help the Cuban people.

To illustrate, when asked to rate Trump’s performance in a host of national issues ranging from his handling of immigration and healthcare to Covid-19 response, responses split along partisan lines, with roughly two-thirds consistently in favor of the Republican president. This was also true when respondents were asked to rate Trump’s handling of “Cuba policy” (66% in favor). But when respondents were asked about support for individual components of Cuba policy without mentioning Trump, political parties or “the embargo,” the partisan lines disappeared and previous trend lines in favor of engagement resurfaced, with U.S.-born Cuban-Americans and recent arrivals leading the way:

  • 56% support diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba.
  • 57% support the temporary suspension of trade sanctions on Cuba during Covid-19.
  • 69% support the food sales to Cuba by U.S. companies.
  • 71% support the sale of medicine to Cuba by U.S. companies.
  • 58% oppose the suspension of visas services at the U.S. Embassy in Havana.
  • 58% support the resumption of the Cuban Family Reunification Program (suspended in 2019).

Support for unrestricted travel to Cuba—for Americans and Cuban-Americans alike—did drop below 50% for the first time since the Bush-era, with cruise ship being the least popular (40%). Yet, 62% favor allowing U.S. commercial airlines to re-establish routes throughout the island, not just to Havana. This suggests that while a majority of Cuban-Americans may now favor some restrictions on U.S.-Cuba travel, they remain lenient on what those may be.
Notably, on questions that define U.S.-Cuba policy in terms of “carrots” and “sticks”, strong majorities supported a combined approach: 68% favor policies “designed to put maximum pressure on the Cuban government” while 66% support policies directed at “improving the economic well-being of the Cuban people.” In other words, the Obama-era view that “U.S. policy should be tough on the government but soft on the people” continues to hold firm. So has the shrinking salience of U.S.-Cuba policy among key election-year issues for Cuban-American voters, ranking below the economy, healthcare, race, immigration and even China policy across party affiliation.
Perhaps the most significant number in the poll is the percentage of newer émigrés who identify as Republican: a whopping 76% of those who migrated to the United States between 2010 and 2015. Paradoxically, these are also the Cubans-Americans who most frequently travel to Cuba, maintain relations on the island and favor most of the same engagement policies that their Republican representatives so ardently strive to dismantle. This contradiction is shaped by too many factors to explore here. The appeal of Trump’s strongman/ business mogul persona and anti-socialist bombast is certainly one of them. Yet it is also true that these migrants harbor deep antipathies toward a Cuban government that did precious little to seize the opportunity for reform presented by President Obama’s diplomatic opening. Their party affiliation likely represents a rebuke of the system they left behind more than a defined ideological orientation. Nonetheless, this should serve as a wakeup call for Cuban officials. Those who arrived between 2010 to 2015 aren’t batistianos. They are a direct product of the Revolution. By continuing to resist meaningful reforms, the Cuban government runs the risk of forging a new generation of aggrieved exiles supportive of U.S. presidents who take a hardline approach against Cuba.

Finally, there are important lessons here for whoever wins the White House come November. Should it be Joe Biden, reversing Trump’s most hurtful measures toward Cuba in his first 100 days will be popular among Cuban-Americans. These include the re-establishment of island-wide commercial and charter travel, lifting remittance limits, re-opening consular services and fully staffing the U.S. Embassy in Havana. For Trump, the FIU poll suggests that Cuba sanctions have a political ceiling, which his policies reached long ago. In a second term, Trump could ease harmful restrictions on travel, remittances, and some trade in pursuit of a “better deal” without losing support.

“The poll estimates about 52.6% of Cuban Americans in Florida are registered Republicans compared to 25.8% who are registered Democrats and 21.5% who are registered independent.” (NBC Miami, October 2, 2020)

Read the full 2020 FIU CUBA POLL report here.

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ASSOCIATION FOR THE STUDY OF THE CUBAN ECONOMY, PAPERS AND PROCEEDINGS OF THE TWENTY-FIFTH ANNUAL MEETING, JULY 30-AUGUST 1, 2015

ASCE: Cuba in Transition: Volume 25

Papers and Proceedings of the Twenty-Fifth Annual Meeting,  July 30-August 1, 2015

All papers are hyperlinked to the ASCE Website and can be seen in PDF format.

wwwPreface

Conference Program

Table of Contents

Reflections on the State of the Cuban Economy Carlos Seiglie

¿Es la Economía o es la Política?: La Ilusoria Inversión de K. Marx Alexis Jardines

Los Grandes Retos del Deshielo Emilio Morales

Preparing for a Full Restoration of Economic Relations between Cuba and the United States Ernesto Hernández-Catá

Economic Consequences of Cuba-U.S. Reconciliation Luis R. Luis

El Sector Privado y el Turismo en Cuba Ante un Escenario de Relaciones con Estados Unidos José Luis Perelló Cabrera

The Logical Fallacy of the New U.S.-Cuba Policy and its Security Implications José Azel

Why Cuba is a State Sponsor of Terror Joseph M. Humire

The National Security Implications of the President’s New Cuba Policy Ana Quintana

Factores Atípicos de las Relaciones Internacionales Económicas de Cuba: El Rol de los Servicios Cubanos de Inteligencia Enrique García

Entrepreneurship in Post-Socialist Economies: Lessons for Cuba Mario A. González-Corzo

When Reforms Are Not: Recent Policy Development in Cuba and the Implications for the Future Enrique S. Pumar

Revisiting the Seven Threads in the Labyrinth of the Cuban Revolution Luis Martínez-Fernández

La Economía Política del Embargo o Bloqueo Interno Jorge A. Sanguinetty

Establishing Ground Rules for Political Risk Claims about Cuba José Gabilondo

Resolving U.S. Expropriation Claims Against Cuba: A Very Modest Proposal Matías F. Travieso-Díaz

U.S.-Cuba BIT: A Guarantee in Reestablishing Trade Relations Rolando Anillo, Esq.

Lessons from Cuba’s Party-Military Relations and a Tale of “Two Fronts Line” in North Korea Jung-chul Lee

The Military, Ideological Frameworks and Familial Marxism: A Comment on Jung-chul Lee,“A Lesson from Cuba’s Party-Military Relations and a Tale of ‘Two Fronts Line’ in North Korea” Larry Catá Backer

Hybrid Economy in Cuba and North Korea: Key to the Longevity of Two Regimes and Difference Young-Ja Park

Historical Progress Of U.S.-Cuba Relationship: Implication for U.S.-North Korea Case Wootae Lee

Estimating Disguised Unemployment in Cuba Ernesto Hernández-Catá

Reliable Partners, Not Carpetbaggers Domingo Amuchástegui

Foreign Investment in Cuba’s “Updating” of Its Economic Model Jorge F. Pérez-López

Global Corporate Social Responsibility (GCSR) Standards With Cuban Characteristics: What Normalization Means for Transnational Enterprise Activity in Cuba Larry Catá Backer

Bienal de la Habana, 1984: Art Curators as State Researchers Paloma Checa-Gismero

Luchas y Éxitos de las Diásporas Cubana Lisa Clarke

A Framework for Assessing the Impact of U.S. Restrictions on Telecommunication Exports to Cuba Larry Press

Measures to Deal with an Aging Population: International Experiences and Lessons for Cuba Sergio Díaz-Briquets

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HOW FOES OF WARMER RELATIONS WITH CUBA SLOWLY CAME AROUND: Group of Businessmen Reversed Position, Helping Pave Way for Historic Move

By José de Córdoba

Wall Street Journal, March 18, 2016

MIAMI—On his historic visit to Havana on Sunday, President Barack Obama will be accompanied by a group of prominent Cuban-American businessmen who have one thing in common. For years, they all opposed the very kind of trip the president is taking.

The presence of this wealthy and influential group reflects the transformation of Miami, the capital of the U.S.’s economically successful and politically powerful Cuban-American community. For decades, these men opposed any attempt to soften relations with Cuba’s Communist government. And all, at different stages in their lives, changed their minds.

“We had to decide whether we were going to be an obstacle to a transition in Cuba or an asset to that transition,” says businessman Carlos Saladrigas, 68 years old, who in 2000 founded the Cuba Study Group, a nonprofit that pushed for U.S. engagement with Cuba.

Their change of heart mirrors a broader shift among Cuban-Americans. In Miami-Dade County, Cuban-American support for the U.S. trade embargo fell to 48% in 2014, from 87% in 1991, according to polling by Florida International University.

Having support from such an influential group of businessmen helped give the president political cover as he pursued a major shift of policy, say Cuban-Americans and former White House officials.

“They kept pushing us to do more,” recalls Dan Restrepo, a former national security adviser for the Western Hemisphere. Cuban-Americans “influenced the political climate in Miami at the time, and the president’s policies were made easier by the changed political environment.”

Their position is far from universally embraced and passions about the Castro brothers continue to run high. Earlier this week, Cuban-American Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, (R., Fla.) said President Obama was ignoring repression on the island to “promote more funds going in the pockets of the regime. U.S. policy must focus less on easing regulations and more on putting pressure on the Castro brothers.”

Support for the embargo is a fundamental issue for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who dropped out of the Republican presidential race this week. Republican candidate Sen. Ted Cruz also opposes rapprochement, which he says has thrown the regime an economic lifeline. Not until the 2016 presidential election contest is settled will the long-term prospects of the Obama administration’s policy be clear.

Among the Cuban-American businessmen to shift are sugar magnate Alfonso “Alfy” Fanjul, one of the owners of Fanjul Corp., one of the largest sugar producers in the U.S., Mike Fernández, a wealthy health-care entrepreneur who was a major donor to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s campaign, and Carlos Gutierrez, who retired as chairman of Kellogg Co.after a 30-year career to serve as President George W. Bush’s commerce secretary, a position from which he supported the Bush administration’s hard line on Cuba.

Mr. Saladrigas, Mr. Gutierrez and Andres Fanjul, Alfonso Fanjul’s younger brother, will be among the Cuban-Americans accompanying Mr. Obama on the trip. Mr. Obama is expected to meet with Cuban President Raúl Castro, take in a baseball game between Cuba’s national team and the Tampa Bay Rays, and meet with dissidents, members of civil-society groups and Cuba’s fledgling entrepreneurs.

For each of the businessmen, Cuba is a personal and passionate matter. Some had family members executed by the Castro regime; others had relatives who spent years in prison. Some, such as Mr. Saladrigas, came to the U.S. as unaccompanied children, initially juggling lowly jobs and studying at night. All of them lost their homes.

Cuban-American businessman Carlos Saladrigas, seen in his Miami home, supported lifting the embargo and will travel to Cuba with President Obama. Photo: Josh Ritchie for The Wall Street Journal

“The one important thing we all share is that although we left Cuba, Cuba never left us,” says Mr. Saladrigas.

Messrs. Saladrigas and Fernández and a handful of the others involved in the outreach program have vowed not to do business on the island for fear of appearing to profit from their activism. “Because of the importance of what we are doing, we have to stay clear,” says Mr. Fernández.

In 1997, Mr. Saladrigas led Miami Cuban-Americans in opposition to plans by the Catholic archdiocese to send a cruise ship full of Catholics to greet the late Pope John Paul II in Havana the following year. Faced with Mr. Saladrigas’s opposition, the archdiocese dropped the plan.

Mr. Saladrigas says he changed his mind after seeing the pope make a plea in Havana to let “Cuba open itself to the world, and let the world open itself to Cuba.”

As decades passed, the Castro regime survived and pinned blame for the country’s economic failures on the embargo.

Mr. Saladrigas says he and other like-minded business people concluded backing the embargo wasn’t an effective strategy. “A lot of people felt good about beating their chests,” he says. “But it’s not about that. It’s about results.”

When Fidel Castro fell ill in 2006, eventually handing over power to his younger brother Raúl, many Cuban-Americans in Miami believed the elder Castro’s absence would open the door to change. The smooth transition of power led some to conclude that a new approach was needed.

“Nothing had changed,” says Enrique Sosa, 76, a retired executive in the oil and chemical industries. “I thought, this [embargo] is no way to knock these guys out.”ENLARGE

Alfonso Fanjul, one of the owners of Fanjul Corp., a large sugar producer in the U.S., is one of the influential businessmen who changed his mind and supported ending the trade embargo. Photo: John Parra/Getty Images

Many in Miami remain concerned that in pushing for normalized diplomatic relations, the Obama administration will neglect the quest for political and human rights that has long been a prime concern for Cuban-Americans.

“We want to get to the same place,” said senior Obama aide Ben Rhodes to a recent town-hall meeting in Miami filled with young Cuban-Americans, some of whom were skeptical of the opening. Mr. Rhodes was the point man in the negotiations that led to the agreement with Havana 15 months ago.

At the meeting, Mr. Rhodes reiterated the U.S. was no longer in the business of regime change in Cuba. He also said Mr. Obama’s policy would lead to change throughout Cuban society.

While Cuba is no longer their home, Cuban-Americans say it still lays claim to their hearts and memories.

“My father’s house, my grandfather’s house are in Havana. I don’t want them back,” says Pedro Freyre, a lawyer whose brother was one of 1,500 CIA-trained Cuban exiles who fought in the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion and spent almost two years in prison before he was ransomed.

“I want to see a Havana freshly painted, and I want to contribute my bucket of paint.”

On his first trip back in 2002, Mr. Sosa, the retired executive, and family members drove to Camaguey, a province on the eastern end of the island where his family had been cattle ranchers and sugar farmers.

“I realized I didn’t belong there anymore,” says Mr. Sosa, whose father and brother spent nearly two years in prison after being captured in the Bay of Pigs invasion.

Mr. Sosa believes Cuba faces daunting prospects, including the island’s obsession with maintaining tight control over the country’s economic and political life.

That said, “I came to the conclusion that if in order to help the Cuban people you ended up giving collateral help to the Cuban government, it was an acceptable price,” he says. “I crossed that bridge a long time ago.”

Saladrigas

Carlos Saladrigas

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POLL: CUBAN AMERICANS FAVOR OBAMA’S POLICY OVER RUBIO’S

Original Essay: Cuban Americans: Obama over Rubio and Cruz zzzzzzz CUBA STANDARD

Bad news for Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz: Most Cuban Americans support President Barack Obama’s normalization policy with Cuba, suggests a poll published by Miami-based Bendixen & Amandi International on Dec. 17, the anniversary of the normalization announcement by the presidents of the United States and Cuba.

The survey’s results suggest that presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, both Cuban American Republicans espousing hardline views of U.S.-Cuba relations, do not represent the majority views of the Cuban community in the United States.

According to the poll, a clear 56% majority support Obama’s normalization policy, 12% more than a year ago, and 53% of Cuban Americans would like to see the embargo lifted, 9% more than last year. The majority is larger among younger Cuban Americans: Sixty-six percent of those age 18-49 favor an end of U.S. sanctions.

Bendixen conducted the survey Dec. 14-16 among 400 Cuban Americans. Florida, a center for histórico exiles who have been driving the U.S. sanctions policy, polls less favorable for Obama’s policy than the rest of the United States. Only 41% of Cuban Americans living in Florida said they had a favorable impression of normalization policies, compared to 56% of Cuban Americans living elsewhere in the United States. Despite broad support for his policy, 52% of Cuban Americans said they would oppose a trip to Cuba by Obama.

The U.S. president announced this month that he would like to visit the island, on condition of progress by the Cuban government on human rights issues.

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FINANCIAL TIMES SPECIAL REPORT ON CUBA, June 16, 2015

Financial Times, June 16, 2015

Document here: Financial Times SPECIAL REPORT on CUBA June 16 2015

Authors:

John Paul Rathbone, Latin America Editor; Geoff Dyer, US diplomatic correspondent; Richard Feinberg, Professor, UCLA San Diego; Marc Frank, Journalist based in Cuba; Cardiff Garcia, FT Alphaville reporter

obama-castroTHAW IN US RELATIONS RAISES EXPECTATIONS; Tentative signs of openness heighten hopes, but is the island ready to do business?

NEW CONNECTION DIVIDES OPINION; President Obama’s overtures play better than expected at home — although not with everyone

STRAITS DEALING BRIDGES MANY GAPS; Retailers in Florida cash in on items needed by customers across the water

GLIMMERS OF GLASNOST BEGIN TO WARM ISLAND; Government retains a firm grip, but there are signs it is loosening a little

NEW PORT ZONE HARBOURS BIG AMBITIONS; A would-be capitalist enclave in a socialist state, the Mariel project is emblematic of change

STATE EXPERIMENTS WITH CO-OPERATIVE THINKING; From garages and restaurants to dealers in exotic birds, co-ops are expanding

CUBA’S NASCENT KNOWLEGE ECONOMY; The island could capitalise on a wealth of expertise in science

US COMPANIES STILL FACE INVESTMENT HURDLES; Bureaucracy, eroded infrastructure and regulatory risk are among hurdles

GOVERNMENT LIKELY TO END TO DUAL CURRENCY; Change would be part of reforms to remove price distortins

COMPENSATION IS KEY TO FUTURE RELATIONS; What now for legal claims by those who lost property in the revolution?

OPINION: WHAT CUBA CAN LEARN FROM VIETNAM; The island has the resources and location to create a balanced economy

 There is a new entry among Cuba’s roll of important dates. Alongside Fidel Castro’s 26th of July movement and the January 1 1959 “triumph of the revolution”, there is now December 17 2014. That was the day when Barack Obama and Raúl Castro, the US and Cuban presidents, announced that they wanted to normalise bilateral relations and end more than 50 years of cold war enmity.

 To be sure, communist Cuba was already changing. After formally becoming president in 2008, Mr Castro began a tentative economic liberalisation process to boost the country’s flagging economy — especially urgent now that Venezuela’s growing crisis jeopardises the $1.5bn of aid it sends every year. But the December 17 announcement lit a bonfire of expectations among US businesses — even if Cuba’s $80bn economy, for all its exotic allure, is much the same size as the Dominican Republic’s. “There is a new sense of excitement, of US companies coming to look and thinking of starting seed businesses,” says one long-established European investor in Havana. “It makes sense. Start small, learn how the system works and then see how it all goes.”

 So, how might it all go? Continue reading:  Financial Times SPECIAL REPORT on CUBA June 16 2015

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