New Cuba-US Relations: Business over Politics

Elio Delgado Legon

President Obama arriving in Miami in November 2013. Secret negotiations between the Cuban and US governments were already underway. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES — The recent news about Cuba-US relations has had a huge impact at the international level and brought much joy to the Cuban people, particularly because three Cuban men who had served long and unjust sentences in the United States, for the “crime” of penetrating terrorist organizations based in South Florida, have returned home.

President Barack Obama’s decision to release them and re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba has been welcomed by the Cuban people, and constitutes the first steps in a long journey we will possibly have to make in order to normalize all relations with our neighbor.

I say that these are merely the first steps of the journey because the fundamental problem, the economic, commercial and financial blockade that has burdened the Cuban people for more than 50 years, still has not been resolved, and will have to be lifted by the US Congress.

It is fairly difficult to make any predictions about what Congress, with a Republican majority, will decide in response to Obama’s proposal that the laws that sustain the blockade be repealed, for, on the one hand, we know the Republicans will try and make the Democrat president look bad, but, on the other, there are economic interests among Republicans that would benefit from the re-establishment of bilateral trade.

Which of the two forces will prove stronger? We will have to wait and see, but, in my opinion, even though Cuban-American legislators will oppose the decision with all their strength and find support among some war-mongers like John McCain, there is a large lobby of farmers and other businesspeople whose interests have been undermined by the blockade and have done the math regarding how much they have lost in the course of 50 years and how much they can gain from exporting to a country with eleven million inhabitants, a country that draws more and more tourists and is already seeing as many as three million visitors every year (a figure that could well double in the short term if American citizens regain their freedom to travel where they please, as their Constitution establishes).

The United States is also interested in importing from Cuba many products they don’t find in other markets – some because they are made exclusively in Cuba and others because they are made with lesser quality elsewhere.

Another issue that, as I see it, is even more important than trade, is the possibility of investing in Cuba, particularly in the Mariel Special Development Zone, which has already received numerous applications from businesspeople from other countries.

In my opinion, the interests of US businesspeople will prevail over those of the Cuban-American legislators and their war-mongering supporters.

With the re-establishment of relations with Cuba, the United States has significantly improved the negative image it has earned for itself in recent years, particularly in Latin America, where it has been losing opportunities to invest and establish other businesses, opportunities that countries in Europe and Asia, which don’t mix politics and business, and do not meddle in the internal affairs of countries they trade with, have not missed. That must be the nature of all future relations between the United States and the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, if the US wishes to regain the prestige it once had.

5 thoughts on “New Cuba-US Relations: Business over Politics

  • I’m curious as to what business opportunities the author sees for Americans to invest in Cuba if the embargo were to be lifted, and just what products Americans would only be made in Cuba that would be desirable in the USA?

  • No surprise really. Elio is like my wife’s grandfather. He once shared with me how the US doing business with Cuba could bring in an extra $500 million for the US. When I said that on a national scale, that amount of money is less than a rounding error, he was still in a fog to grasp the difference in magnitude. Half a billion dollars in new revenues to Cuba is a game changer. Elio simply believes that if the Castros are excited about it, everyone else should be too.

  • Perhaps I over indulged in the Christmas eggnog & rum, but did I just read that correctly? Is Havana Times’ veteran the old school Party line Communist columnist, Elio Legon, counting on US capitalists to rescue the Castro regime and the mythological Cuban Revolution?

    Will wonders never cease? Forget the eggnog, pour me a straight rum, bartender!

  • Elio is giving too much value to the economic footprint a poor banana republic like Cuba makes on the world market. With a GDP of just less than $60 billion, Cuba, as a business entity is like the State of Maryland. My state, California, has nearly three times the economic firepower than the entire country of Cuba. What this means is that if I am an Iowa farmer who wants to sell my produce, I have a better market in Maryland and certainly California than I have in Cuba without the headaches. There are business interests looking to do business in Cuba but Elio has a Cuba-skewed perspective. American businessmen would do business with the Devil himself if a buck can be made. That is what makes American business so strong, we do NOT mix business with politics (or morals for that matter). Proof of that is weapons manufacturing and sales. Moreover, US business leaders, different from their Canadian, French, Spanish (and others, no offense intended) are much less likely to enter into contracts with the Castros where the Castros are bending the business leader over and having their way with them. Allowing American investors will be mutually beneficial, but more beneficial to the Americans. The nexus between this new hope for an economic lifeline from the US and greater democracy and freedom for everyday Cubans is still a reach but it does exist. Time will tell.

  • Thank you Elio for your always scholarly and factual presentations.
    I read your new articles first.
    As you said , not much will change if Congress does not do away with the embargo .
    Were Raul & the Government to want to not have to democratize, i.e. make Cuba a socialist society in fact then maintaining the embargo would work in his favor .
    He would then be able to still make the claim that the reason for the bad economy is the embargo and not internal causes.
    Absent the effects of the embargo, he would have no excuses and everyone including Congress and the people who own them knows that.
    My contention vis a vis U.S. foreign policy mandates that the greatest fear of the owners of the United States ; those who pay for the elections of their servants in the government is a democratic society in which totalitarian capitalism could not exist.
    Should Raul go down the road to a democratic society -not at all a sure thing- he would not be making a move welcome at the highest levels of U.S. power: those who wield the economic power to control the government .
    These are most interesting times.

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