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.

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