US Exec Praises Cuba’s Economic Reforms

By Progreso Weekly

Thomas Donohue speaking at the  University of Havana.
Thomas Donohue speaking at the University of Havana.  Photo: Ricardo Lopez Hevia /

HAVANA TIMES – “It is time to begin a new chapter in U.S.-Cuba relations,” said Thomas J. Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, addressing students, academicians and other guests at the University of Havana on Thursday (May 29).

“On the basis of what we’ve seen, we consider that this period of transition in your economic system may possibly be of transition in our policies,” he said, according to the official website Cubadebate. “And it’s very promising for both countries.”

Jorge Hernández Martínez, director of the Center for Hemispheric Studies and the United States, introduced the U.S. visitor with such a glowing biography that Donohue began his address by saying “That sounds like my obituary,” drawing laughter from the audience.

The U.S. visitor spoke to a standing-room-only crowd in the university’s Grand Lecture Hall, a chamber reserved for special events.

“We have come to Cuba to observe the seriousness of [the economic reforms] and to encourage and support them as much as we can,” Donohue said, quoted by The Associated Press. “The entrepreneurial spirit is alive in the citizens.”

“The reforms that we have observed in this country […] can have a positive influence in the lives of its citizens,” he said. “Let us hope that they continue and we encourage them to expand. The businesses in the world economy will surely value that.”

“The more Cuba can do to demonstrate its commitment to the reforms, and the more that can be done to deal with and resolve the conflicts in our relations, the better will be the outlook for changes in the policy of the United States,” he said, quoted by the Reuters news agency.

For many years, U.S.-Cuba relations “have been marked by differences and bound by their past. It doesn’t have to be that way.”

Donohue shaking hands with Rodrigo Malmierca, minister of Foreign Trade and Investment, the man in the middle is the dean of the University, Gustavo Cobreiro Suarez. Photos: Ricardo López Hevia/
Donohue shaking hands with Rodrigo Malmierca, minister of Foreign Trade and Investment, the man in the middle is the dean of the University, Gustavo Cobreiro Suarez. Photo: Ricardo López Hevia/

Unrestricted travel between the two countries could give the new generations of Cubans and Americans “an opportunity to know each other, to learn from one another, to do business together, to prosper together and help each other as friends and neighbors,” he said.

Donohue said that he hoped that “other Americans, in addition to Cuban-Americans, could come and convince themselves of how much we share.”

While citing China and Vietnam as examples of communist governments that have adopted market-oriented economies, Donohue stressed the value of private enterprise.

“We’re profoundly convinced that the countries with strong private sectors […] will have the most successful and productive economies,” he said.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been an aggressive defender of normal relations between Havana and Washington, Donohue said, adding that “there are some very good business on the island worth investing in.”

About the trade embargo the U.S. imposed on Cuba decades ago, “the Chamber of Commerce thinks that it is time to eliminate the longstanding political barriers.”

“Cuba is safe for investment, not only for the citizens of the United States — we’re 90 miles apart — but also for the entire world, taking into account the changes that are taking place,” Donohue said.

Asked how much longer the embargo might last, he answered, “It depends on how well we can communicate with one another.”

Donohue and about a dozen U.S. businessmen arrived in Cuba on Tuesday. Since then, they have visited at least one cooperative and toured the Development Zone at the Port of Mariel. They have also met with several self-employed entrepreneurs.

43 thoughts on “US Exec Praises Cuba’s Economic Reforms

  • June 3, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    You can visit Cuba. Legal tours are available. You can also travel illegally and the US government will never know, or if they do, won’t do anything about it. You can spend all the money you want, although US credit cards won’t work.

  • June 3, 2014 at 9:24 am

    Regarding the Vietnam/US war, China was strategically a main source for transporting weapons and equipment to
    the Viet Cong. Russia, in terms of expense, spent an estimated four to five times as much as China and in fact used the open sea to ship to Vietnam but without China’s strategic location, bordering on the North of Vietnam, it is doubtful Vietnam could have lasted out the US. The shipment of materials from China to the Viet Cong was as much of a reason for US servicemen killed or wounded
    as the involvement and contribution of the Soviet Union.
    The bottom line is China owns quite a bit of US debt, sells
    a good portion of what we as American’s buy and again,
    was a direct factor in the fight against our servicemen
    who died in a tragic and senseless war. I feel the Cuban embargo and my inability to travel and spend money in Cuba is wrong and hypocritical. It also prevents us to talk openly to all Cuban’s about the disastrous consequences the Castro regime has inflicted on its people.

  • June 2, 2014 at 7:09 pm

    China was not the major supplier to Vietnam, the USSR was. The Vietnamese have long regarded China as a bully to the north.

    Interesting to note, the Cuban at sent advisors to North Vietnam to help th build & run their POW camps. US servicemen returning from the POW camps reported seeing & hearing The Cubans.

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