New Cuba Policy Lobbying Group Mounts Ad Campaign

#CubaNow shields donors from attack

By Tracey Eaton  (alongthemalecon)

Ricardo "Ric" Herrera
Ricardo “Ric” Herrera

HAVANA TIMES — The leader of a new advocacy group called #CubaNow declined on Monday to name its private donors, saying it wanted to spare them from personal attacks.

Ricardo Herrero also declined to give any details on his group’s finances. He would not reveal, for instance, the cost of #CubaNow’s ad campaign that debuted Monday. But after a reporter suggested that #CubaNow isn’t likely to match the resources of the influential pro-embargo U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, Herrero shot back: “We are certainly not outgunned financially.”

#CubaNow said its ad campaign was aimed at pressuring President Obama to change U.S. policy toward Cuba. The group said its campaign:

“…comes almost exactly five years to the day since President Obama first took steps to allow greater contact between Cuban-Americans and their friends and families in Cuba, helping usher in more change in that time than had been seen in the previous fifty years. #CubaNow is launching with the mission of informing, connecting and inspiring a new conversation around those changes and advocating for practical and effective policy solutions that empower individuals to serve as catalysts for meaningful change in Cuba.”

In series of ads that will focus on the Washington, DC metro system targeting the State Department and the White House, #CubaNow will make the case that the President can and should take further steps that both advance America’s best interests while also helping the Cuban people. For an entire month, the ads will highlight the changes happening in Cuba, and the obvious, that our 52-year-old Cuba policy simply hasn’t worked.

tracey-ad-1During a conference call on Monday, one reporter said that #CubaNow’s stance seems to mirror that of the Americas Society Council of the Americas’ Cuba Working Group, which published a memo this month asking Obama to take “a series of small but significant steps…to empower Cuban entrepreneurs.”

Another reporter mentioned the Cuba Study Group, where Herrero once served as deputy executive director.

“We have ties with some of these groups,” said Herrero, without giving additional details.
During the conference call, I asked Herrero who finances his non-profit organization. Here’s our exchange:

Ricardo Herrera: The changes that the president has taken so far have been significant and we would like him to move further in that direction towards helping the Cuban people. We’re going to be using every means available through media to help inform and mobilize people who also believe that we need to take a different approach towards Cuba both at the top and at the grassroots level.

Tracey Eaton: You can’t say anything about where you’re getting the money?

Herrero: Yeah, we’re getting the money from individuals, donors from throughout the country who believe in our mission and our supporting us.

Eaton: Can any of them be named?

Herrera: Umm, we will- at this point we’re not disclosing the names of donors. We will abide by all the reporting requirements under U.S. law, but what we want is for #CubaNow to really be a space where any American that wants to participate in this conversation and to contribute to this effort can do so without fear of personal attacks or any sort of reprisals. We know even though this conversation, the debate, has evolved significantly over the last few years, there’s still too many folks in this sector who don’t respect differences of opinion and tend to go after people personally.

tracey-ad-2Eaton: I understand. Thanks for that. What motivates you on a personal level because, as you just said, this kind of campaign can produce personal attacks. Do you worry about people attacking you and you group? What motivates you to do this?

Herrera: What motivates me is that my family is – I was born in Puerto Rico but my family is Cuban. They have diverse views on the issue, but they themselves want to see us take a different approach. I just saw my grandfather pass away a year ago and he was never able to go back to Cuba to visit his family home because he felt he couldn’t do that under the current government. While at the same time, my other grandfather will tell you that no government should deny someone the right to visit their homeland. And I thought that to me it seems like it’s a policy that has not helped the members of my family, the members of my community.

It may have started with noble intentions, but the results have been counterproductive for the most part. And as we’ve seen over the years, a lot of people of my generation have been presented with this sort of false choice between either you are 100 percent supportive of the embargo or you somehow embrace the Cuban regime.

And what we’ve seen in the last few years is that there’s another way. There is another approach that does seem to bear results, which is one where we empower the Cuban people, increase the flow of resources to the island to help them better take control of their own destiny while at the same time keeping pressure on the oppressors and on the government over ongoing human rights concerns.
Supporters of U.S. sanctions against Cuba say that increasing travel to the island will only help the socialist government.

Herrero said the Helms-Burton Act may have made sense in 1996, but is counterproductive in 2014. U.S. policy has “been a failure,” he said. “We believe we are on the right side of history.”

#CubaNow said in a statement:

“In addition to the initial round of advertising, #CubaNow will convene experts, stakeholders, and voices of change from the United States and Cuba in the coming weeks and months to dig deep into the changes happening on the island, where the Cuban people themselves are leveraging modest economic reforms into greater economic independence that was once unheard of. An embodiment of the new political landscape, #CubaNow will also work to highlight the growing consensus in the United States for a new approach. The launch and first-of-its kind advertising campaign calling on the President to act marks an unprecedented shift in the debate over Cuba policy.

“The ad campaign features three versions, one focused on Cuban pro-democracy blogger Yoani Sanchez’s comments that those outside Cuba should support Cuba’s new independent -entrepreneurs; another focused on the fact that our 52-year-old Cuba policy hasn’t worked; and a third highlighting the power of people-to-people connections. All of them call on the President to act immediately.”

James Williams
James Williams

James Williams, director of public policy at the Trimpa Group in Washington, registered #CubaNow’s website. Williams’ biography states that he manages a portfolio of state and federal government relations, strategic political consulting, and philanthropic and political investment advising for institutional and individual clients.

Before joining Trimpa Group, Williams served as a consultant to the Bonner Group, a leading progressive fundraising consulting firm in Washington, DC, where he oversaw major donor relations and political fundraising. Previously, he coordinated partnerships and fundraising for the German Marshall Fund of the United States, an international public policy and grant-making institution dedicated to improving transatlantic relations. James has also worked for the John Kerry for President Campaign.

Williams serves on the Washington, D.C. Advisory Board of the New Leaders Council, a national organization dedicated to empowering emerging progressive leaders. He is also a Board member of the Project On Middle East Democracy, a non-partisan organization dedicated to examining how genuine democracies can develop in the Middle East.

15 thoughts on “New Cuba Policy Lobbying Group Mounts Ad Campaign

  • “Obviously, you don’t give a shit about the Cuban people at all. You are only motivated by your hatred of the USA.”

    Wrong. I care about the Cuban people far more than you do. I hate the American government and anyone who supports their insane and criminal policies meddling in Cuba’s affairs.

    “The dictatorship will remain in power, only now they will have even more money to fund their repression.”

    Wrong. Complete speculation. Inadmissible.

    “You want option #1, which would only perpetuate the misery of the Cuban people.”

    Wrong again! You couldn’t be more wrong.

    “If you cared at all about the Cuban people, you would want to end the real “Blockade”, the one imposed by the Castro’s onto the Cuban people, the one which has embargoed all human rights and freedoms for 55 years.”

    Correct. With one exception to what you wrote… you wrote ….”ALL” human rights and freedoms for 55 years. Not correct. That wasn’t correct 55 years ago…and it’s certainly not correct today with many changes already realized. And I don’t want to end the real “Blockade”… I want the Cuban government to end it. That will happen over time. We’re already seeing a slow but steady transformation.

    The genie is out of the bottle….further changes are inevitable and to be accelerated with the end of the American economic embargo. The continuation of the economic embargo is just another blight on America’s reputation. It’s misrepresented… it does nothing but repress the Cuban people…not the Cuba government.

  • It doesn’t matter what you give a shit about as you gave no power to effect change. Your frustrations are “…..full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.”

    You should be pissed off at the Castros who hoodwinked the Cuban people and imposed a totalitarian system on them.

  • Why is it that extremists on the left who hate the US and see themselves as enlightened always devolve into name-calling? You pretend to have the answers and you can’t even contain the frustration behind your failed ideas without making personal comments. I don’t know you but your actions are disgraceful.

  • Terry, you really should take a good long hard look at what you just wrote:

    “I don’t give a shit whether the Cuban government is democratic or not.”

    Obviously, you don’t give a shit about the Cuban people at all. You are only motivated by your hatred of the USA. That’s the whole point of your comments.

    The root cause of all the suffering the Cuban people have been through for the past 55 years is the Castro dictatorship which has brutalized the Cuban people, destroyed the wealth of the nation and driven hundreds of thousands of Cubans into exile.

    Consider two scenarios:

    1. The US immediately lifts the embargo (what little remains of it). What will change in Cuba? The dictatorship will remain in power, only now they will have even more money to fund their repression. Nothing else changes.

    2. The Cuban government ends the dictatorship, respects human rights and allows free elections. What will change in Cuba? No more press censorship, no more political harassment and arrests, no more corrupt Party officials getting away with theft. The US would immediately move to lift what remains of the embargo, and the Cuban people who would finally be allowed to enjoy economic freedom, would benefit. Everything changes.

    You want option #1, which would only perpetuate the misery of the Cuban people.

    If you cared at all about the Cuban people, you would want to end the real “Blockade”, the one imposed by the Castro’s onto the Cuban people, the one which has embargoed all human rights and freedoms for 55 years.

  • I don’t give a shit what has to happen to repeal the Helms-Burton Act…only that it happens. And I don’t give a shit whether the Cuban government is democratic or not. That’s not the issue…the issue is the continued suffering of the Cuban people, due in large part to that outdated, useless, cruel, and criminal piece of US legislation. It doesn’t serve any purpose other than to punish the Cuban people. How anyone can remain content and smug while this continued injustice is propagated against an entire nation of innocent people is beyond me. It’s genocidal by nature, and as such, it is in clear violation of international law. The world has condemned this ridiculous excess of power gone mad for over 2 decades, and yet the US ignores the rest of the world, and the world democratic body that the UN represents. The US continues to keep Cuba on it’s list of terrorist states…and everyone knows that’s a complete farce. There’s no will power in the US to right these injustices. And you personally are content to allow these injustices to prevail…even going so far as to advocate their continuation, and the continuation of the suffering of the Cuban people as well. You’re a sick man. There’s really something wrong with you. And I know you don’t
    get it. After-all, you’re a product of your environment. Absolutely disgraceful.

  • Here are some responses to the #CubaNow campaign. A dissident in Cuba tweeted:

    Ailer González Mena @ailermariaFollow
    Es muy facil para esos “cubanoamericanos” pedir cese del embargo porque no son ellos quienes reciben los “palazos en #Cuba

    (“It’s very easy for some “Cuban-Americans” to call for an end to the embargo because they are not the ones receiving the beatings in #Cuba”)

    Ailer González Mena @ailermariaFollow
    Aja y levantar restricciones de viajes a #Cuba, para disfrutar el exotismo de la miseria y contribuir con el arca totalitaria

    (“Aha, lift travel restrictions to #Cuba, in order to enjoy the exoticism of misery and to contribute to the totalitarian coffer.”)

  • Like it or not, Helms-Burton, was democratically voted on and approved. It will take a series of similar democratic votes in Congress to repeal it. If there is a majority democratic will to do so, then it will happen.

    What you and groups like #CubaNow are advocating is for the President Obama to use an executive order to simply ignore the democratically expressed will of congress and nullify a duly passed law. And the reason you want the President to overrule congress is to provide an economic life-line to the thoroughly undemocratic Castro regime.

    The cartoonist Lauzan has captured perfectly the nature of the relationship between the Castro regime and groups like #CubaNow, Cuba Study Group and CAFE.

  • My bad… that should read “Senator Bob Menendez”.

  • Businesses started with family money like paladares or one of the other less than 200 businesses allowed by the Castros are small mom/pop enterprises. These include businesses like dog-walkers and flower vendors. Griffin’s reference is regarding ‘real’ businesses. Those that would include manufacturers, wholesale importers and other larger-scale companies that serve as the real engines of any national economy. In other words, the Castros will permit Cubans to sell crappy pizzas for 10 Cuban pesos but Cubans are not allowed to can pizza sauce or import flour. I guess doing business at that level is “rocket science”.

  • You have misread my comment. The Castros treatment of Sonia Garro and the other Ladies in White is undisputable proof that the regime CURRENTLY arrest, tortures and imprisons innocent women. I am far from delighted that the US Congress is likely to become even more dysfunctional after the 2014 elections. Issues like immigration reform, raising the minimum wage, gun control and others will become even less likely to be addressed by the new Congress. Cuba, as an issue for America, let alone the world is of little significance by comparison to these larger and more impactful domestic issues. It is rather ironic that a Castro sycophant like you would argue for more democracy in the US behind a strategy of name-calling.

  • Moses, is that all you have left? Fear mongering? You’re simply fear mongering when you allege that the Cuban government will begin arresting, torturing and imprisoning innocent women who hold opposing views…post economic embargo. Absolutely ridiculous, and totally irresponsible, by any measure. And as far as the Helms-Burton Act…you seem twistedly delighted that there is little chance for this federal law to be democratically debated, potentially modified, or over-turned completely by democratic vote. For all your grandstanding in favor of democracy, it’s become clear…you’re opposed to that democratic process. You’re opposed to democracy. And just when I thought you couldn’t possibly become more hypercritical.

  • Senator “Mendoza”? LOL–obviously dealing with a Cuba expert here.

    Americans can send remittances to Cubans on the island. That’s how a lot of these businesses can afford to start a business in the first place–money from family in the U.S. Not rocket science.

  • I know best what “Moses” thinks. The largely ineffective embargo should be maintained until the Castros comply with the changes codified in federal law. To lift the embargo without these changes would send the wrong message to the Castros. Opening up to trade with the dictatorship would serve to embolden their anti-democratic views and help to fund a regime which arrests, tortures and imprisons innocent women who hold opposing views to the regime. The embargo is the law and is far from the risk of being appealed. After the November 2014 elections where the US Congress is likely to become more not less conservative, it will become even less likely that a majority of Congress, especially the House, will vote pro-Castro. Marijuana and same-sex marriages are issues to be resolved at the State level. Helms-Burton is federal law. Big difference.

  • One more step toward normalization of relationships between the Empire and the Revolution that refused to surrender.
    You’d think that after Vietnam , after Iraq , after Afghanistan and all the elections of leftists in Latin America that the U.S.G. would finally catch on to the fact that the Empire is in decline and that Cuba’s admittedly undemocratic socialist-STYLE economy has not and will not collapse under pressure from the U.S. embargo .
    While Moses and friends understand that the embargo must be greatly intensified to be effective enough to cause a counter revolution , the fact is that the embargo is dying the death of a thousand cuts and that easing process will increase.
    There is no chance of the U.S. making the embargo work and the thinking amongst U.S. citizens is changing incredibly quickly toward normalizing relations and that rate can be compared to that of the legalizing marijuana and same-sex marriage issues in the U.S.

  • Surely #CubaNow, and the mysterious funders behind them, are aware that the Cuban government prevents foreign investment with Cuba’s independent entrepreneurs? The Cuban people are not allowed to enter in contracts with foreign investors or businesses. All such contact must be channelled through the Cuban government under the direction of one or other of the Castro controlled enterprises, such as banks or import-export firms.

    So why is #CubaNow directing a campaign in the US to pressure President Obama to change the US policy toward Cuba? Wouldn’t it make more sense to call on President Castro to make the necessary changes to allow Cuba’s independent entrepreneurs to engage in free enterprise without government interference?

    Nowhere in the campaign material does #CubaNow articulate exactly how increasing US trade and travel to Cuba will lead to democratization of the Communist dictatorship which has ruled the island for 55 years.

    Here’s the gist of the #CubaNow argument:

    1. Cuba is a dictatorship, but it’s “changing”. (What is changing they don’t exactly say).
    2. US policy so far hasn’t worked. (Hasn’t worked at what, they don’t say).
    3. So let’s change US policy and allow free travel & trade by US citizens & corporations (Cuban law ensures all the money will continue to flow to the Castro regime, not to the Cuban people).
    4. Democracy in Cuba! (How exactly does that last step happen???)

    As Sen. Mendoza explained in a recent speech in the US Senate:

    ***”The U.S. government’s own report of agricultural sales to Cuba states how every single transaction with Cuba, by hundreds of American agricultural companies, have only had one counter-part: Castro’s food monopoly, through a company named Alimport that hasn’t helped the people one bit. So do we really want to unleash billions to Castro’s monopolies?

    Also, every single foreign ‘people-to-people’ traveler currently stays at a hotel or resort owned by the Cuban military (GAESA). No exceptions!

    So, Mr. President, how does that promote the ‘independence of the Cuban people from the regime?

    At the very least, they should be compelled to stay at a ‘casa particular’ – a private home – but staying at the military’s facilities contravenes the President’s own policy statement. This hardly constitutes an economic opening for the people of Cuba.”***

    So there you have it. More trade & travel with Cuba means only more cash for the regime. That will not bring democracy & freedom for the Cuban people.

    Some background info on #CubaNow:

    Open has a page on #CubaNow, which does not reveal much about the organization’s finances.

    In 2012, Ricardo Herrero was the Deputy Executive Director of the Cuba Study Group. It is not clear what his relationship with that group is today. Clearly, the CSG & #CubaNow espouse the same positions on US policy toward Cuba.

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