MARTÍ AND YBOR: CUBA’S CENTURY OLD LINK TO TAMPA
The Magazine for Trade & Investment in Cuba
Small scale farms meet global demand
The prospects of rolling
back the embargo
Proponents for Changing Course: Sens. John Boozman (R-Ark.)
and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.
Investor’s guide to oil, gas and nickel
U.S. commercial airlines fill the skies
PRIVATE SECTOR PIPELINE
Remittances pay the service bill
THE CHINA QUESTION
Will Beijing fill the Caracas void?
Arkansas: Outfront on Cuba Trade
Arkansas is leading the U.S. in economic and agricultural collaboration with Cuba. And because
Arkansas is the nation’s number one producer of rice as well as a national leader in poultry, we’re
a natural for sprinting to the front of the pack when it comes to food-source trade with Cuba.
In Arkansas, we’re proud to help our neighbors to the south by sharing our resources and our
expertise — which in the end will help both economies to grow and prosper.
ArkansasEDC.com | 1-800-ARKANSAS
Climate is Like
With a booming economy that includes
six homegrown Fortune 500 companies
and a growing number of global
business success stories, there’s more
to Arkansas than meets the eye. Visit
ArkansasEDC.com to learn how your
business can become part of the scenery.
Deals, events and transactions of note
for trade and investment in Cuba
26 THE CUBA BRAND
Stocks and bonds from before the
Revolution are still in demand, just
not at par value
For Cubans who travel back and
forth between Miami and their island
home, Ño Que Barato has become an
Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts has big
ambitions for its second destination in
Up in the Air: The Surge of Flights
from the U.S. to Cuba
16 IDEAS + INNOVATION
A Miami-based auto distributor is
shipping electric cars to Cuba
A Q&A with Mariel Special Economic
Development Zone Director
Ana Teresa Igarza
20 WASHINGTON REPORT
Warming U.S.-Cuba relations have
resulted in a lobbying boom from U.S.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s chilling effect
on ports seeking to trade with Cuba
With Venezuelan support waning, a
big question is whether China wants
to fill the gap
4 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
How a Vermont non-profit resurfaced
Cuba’s Tennis Federation courts in
Havana. Next: Grass Courts?
Charcoal made from Marabún, is
the first cargo shipment to the U.S. in
more than 50 years
How one family of farmers in eastern
Cuba made the transition to becoming
a small business
How American companies are
tackling the nuances of audio-visual
productions in Cuba
Money remitters are starting to play a
vital role in business transactions
Cuba’s sugar harvest this season
should be its biggest in years, and even
though it’s starting from a small base,
it could have an economic impact.
86 CUBAN ART
A Talk with Cuban Sculptor Alberto
90 REPORTERS NOTEBOOK
A visit to Cuba’s Villa Blanca.
94 BOOK REVIEW
Richard E. Feinberg’s guide to the
Cuban economy is nothing less than a
handbook on how to fix what’s broken
96 IN CLOSING
Soy growers hope for a continued
opening of Cuba to U.S. agriculture
How do we move food
from Hastings to Havana?
Break down barriers.
When America farmers are able to freely
export their crops to other countries, it
nourishes the people who need them
most. Opening new markets for US
agriculture boosts food production, spurs
job creation and puts food on more tables
across the globe. That’s why we champion
open trade flows – to raise incomes for
all and build local economies that thrive.
Learn more at cargill.com/food-security.
Cargill is committed to helping the world thrive.
© 2016 Cargill, Incorporated
50 CONGRESS AND CUBA
Executive orders may come and go, but only Congress
can end the half-century trade embargo
60 THE SMELL OF SUCCESS
The Cuban Mountain Coffee company looks forward
to new foreign markets—including the US—as it
moves forward with a deal to revive production in
65 THE TAMPA-CUBA CONNECTION
A new renaissance for Tampa’s centuries-old ties to
81 INVESTMENT REPORT
Analyzing Cuba’s call for foreign direct investment
in energy and mining
ON THE COVER
Sens. John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Amy Klobuchar
(D-Minn.) stand on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.
Photo by Mark Finkenstaedt.
6 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
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Act No. 74 of 2012, the Tourism Development Act, provides
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activities. The benefits under this law will remain valid for a
period of 10 years from the starting date of the eligible
tourism-related project, and the business operation will be
entitled to a 10 year extension.
• Tax credit equal to 10% of the total project costs, or 50% of
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• 100% exemption on municipal construction excise taxes
• 100% exemption on sales and uses taxes
• 100% exemption on excise taxes and other municipal taxes
for new projects or 90% exemption if existing project
• 90% exemption on income tax or 100% exemption, if project is
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• Up to 90% exemption on personal and real property
• Hotels, condo-hotels, small inns ( "paradores "), guest houses,
timeshares and vacation clubs , excluding the operation
• Theme parks, golf courses operated by or associated with a
hotel that is an exempt business, tourism marinas and
docking facilities for tourists
• Natural resources that are useful as a source of active or
passive entertainment or amusement
• Other facilities or activities that , due to the special attractive
features deriving from their usefulness as a source of active
or passive entertainment or amusement, constitute a
stimulus to domestic or foreign tourists
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There's much more the All Star Island has to offer. For more information call 787.721.2400 or visit:
Taking it to the Hill
Our cover story this month looks at the legislative initiatives
inside the U.S. Congress to either loosen the restrictions to trade
and travel with Cuba, or to end the embargo outright.
Make no mistake. It will not be an easy fight for these new
bills to win passage.
Despite the fact that an overwhelming majority of Americans
(including Cuban Americans) support lifting the embargo,
there remains strong resistance to change from a handful of Cuban
American senators and congressmen who continue to hold
our national policy hostage. They accomplish this by blocking any
new bills from coming to the floor of the Senate or House, where
an open vote could turn them into law.
Now all eyes are on the new president, Donald Trump, to
see whether he will be open to change—or if he will fall to the
blandishments of Cuban American legislators who cannot let
go of grievances that date back a half century. Trying to figure
out which way he will lean is the Cuba game of the moment, as
all interested parties read signs in the tea leaves of his cabinet
appointments—or in his most recent dinner guests.
What is important to understand, however, is that the president
does not have the exclusive executive power to abolish the
embargo. President Obama advocated for its end, and punched
enough holes in the rules and regulations to move things forward.
But the embargo still stands, and those advances can now
be reversed by Trump.
Even if the new president chooses to move forward, Congress
must still weigh in. When the embargo was started by
Eisenhower and made comprehensive by Kennedy, it was a matter
of executive order. After 1992, things changed. The embargo
became a U.S. law that was tightened by additional legislation
in 1994 and 1996. And those laws will require Congressional
action to undo.
Yes, a presidential signoff must nonetheless accompany the
passage of any pro-engagement, anti-embargo legislation. The
president can still veto any new bills, and the odds of overcoming
any presidential veto, historically speaking, are about one
in ten. The hope for all those who find the embargo to be both
useless and cruel is that President Trump, having been elected by
a populist movement, will head the voices of that movement—
and not fall prey to a contentious minority holding onto a Cold
War mentality. H
J.P. Faber. Editor-in-Chief
Todd W. Hoffman
Ariana H. Reguant
Matias J. Ocner
Vice President Sales
Research & Development
Cuba Trade Magazine is published each month by Third Circle Publishing, LLC,
at 2 S. Biscayne Blvd., Suite 2450, Miami, FL USA 33131. Telephone: (786)
206.8254. Copyright 2016 by Third Circle Publishing LLC. All rights reserved.
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8 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
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of note for trade
Record number of tourists
Cuba’s Ministry of Tourism says the
country welcomed a record four million
tourists in 2016––up 13 percent from
2015. Tourist arrivals have steadily
increased each year since 2008. The arrival
of U.S. cruises and commercial airlines is
expected to spur more growth in 2017.
Sailing to Cuba
Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean
International, Carnival Cruise Line, and
Pearl Seas Cruises—all of which recently
won approval from the Cuban government
to sail to the island—announced plans for
2017. Pearl Seas Cruises completed its
inaugural Cuba trip in January. From May
through November, Royal Caribbean’s
Empress of the Seas will offer 5-night
trips from Tampa. From June through
December, the Norwegian Sky will sail
with weekly 4-night trips from Miami.
The Carnival Paradise will take customers
from Tampa to Havana on a dozen
four- and five-day trips between June and
More flights to Havana
Alaska Airlines and Frontier flew their
inaugural flights to Havana in early
January. The Alaska Airlines flight from
Los Angeles is the only one to Cuba from
the West Coast of the U.S. At the same
time, several airlines have cut the number
of flights to Cuba, following weaker
demand than expected.
Cuban economy slumps in 2016
In late December, Economy Minister
Ricardo Cabrisas told the National
Assembly that Cuba's GDP fell 0.9
percent in 2016. The slide comes after
four years of nearly 3 percent annual
growth. Cabrisas said cutbacks in crude
oil deliveries from Venezuela, a drop
in the number of contracts for Cuban
professional services in Venezuela, and
the U.S. trade embargo all contributed
to the slumping economy. He said
economic reforms can boost GDP
growth to 2 percent in 2017, but most
experts doubt that’s possible.
A show of strength
Cuba made a rare show of force in early
January by parading thousands of troops
through Havana’s Revolution Square. The
parade was originally planned for December,
but it was postponed due to the death
of former President Fidel Castro.
Expanded travel bill reintroduced
In early January, Rep. Mark Sanford
(R-S.C.) reintroduced the Freedom to
Travel to Cuba Act to the House of
10 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
Representatives. The bill aims to ease
tourist travel to Cuba. Sens. Jeff Flake
(R-Ariz.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)
introduced a Senate version of the bill in
the last Congress, which did not vote on
either version of the bill.
‘Wet foot, dry foot’ policy ends
In a surprise move, former President
Obama ended the “wet foot, dry foot”
policy eight days before his term ended.
Previously, Cubans who reached U.S. soil
without a visa could become legal permanent
residents a year after their arrival.
Obama also ended the Cuban Medical
Professional Parole Program, which
allowed Cuban doctors dispatched in third
countries to defect to the United States.
Cuba, meanwhile, is allowing some doctors
who defected to return to the island.
Cabinet hearings signal tough approach
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, UN
Ambassador Nikki Haley, and Treasury
Secretary Steve Mnuchin all took a tough
stance on Cuba during their confirmation
hearings. Tillerson told Sen. Marco Rubio
(R-Fla.) that all Obama-era actions on
Cuba are under review. He also said he
would recommend Trump veto any bill
to lift the trade embargo unless there is
democracy on the island. Haley wrote to
Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) that she will
not continue last year’s historic decision to
abstain from Cuba’s annual UN resolution
condemning the embargo. Mnuchin wrote
to Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) that he will
enforce all statutorily mandated sanctions
Obama era ends with flurry of deals
In the final days of the Obama presidency,
the U.S. and Cuba rushed to sign
several deals, including agreements to
cooperate on search-and-rescue missions
in the Straits of Florida; setting territorial
limits in the oil-rich Gulf of Mexico;
and cooperation on combating oil
spills. The U.S. and Cuba have signed 22
accords since the two countries normalized
relations. Obama also suspended a
section of the Helms-Burton Act that
allows business owners who had property
confiscated during the Revolution to sue
companies using their former holdings.
Every president has routinely suspended
the lawsuit provision every six months
Castro meets U.S. Chamber of Commerce
U.S. Chamber of Commerce President
Thomas Donohue spoke with Cuban
President Raúl Castro in early January to
discuss “issues of mutual interest,” according
to Reuters. The meeting happened
before the inauguration of President
Donald Trump, whose policy towards
Cuba remains uncertain.
Cuban cargo reaches Florida
Charcoal made from marabú, a woody
weed known for decimating Cuban farms,
was on the first legal cargo shipment
from Cuba to the U.S. in more than half a
decade. About 40 tons of the charcoal was
shipped to Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades
in late January.
Anti-embargo advocacy group fined
Tampa’s Alliance for Responsible Cuba
Policy Foundation was fined $10,000 for
arranging two trips to the island that the
Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)
says were not authorized. OFAC says
it reduced the original fine of $100,000
because the organization did not cause
Castro: Willing to work with Trump
Cuban President Raúl Castro said Cuba
is willing to work with Trump on normalizing
relations with the U.S., but not if it
leads to concessions affecting the country’s
sovereignty. Castro made the comments
at a summit of Latin American and
Caribbean leaders five days after Trump’s
Rubio has Trump’s ear on Cuba
President Trump told reporters on Feb. 16
that he and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)
“have very similar views on Cuba.” Rubio
has been one of the staunchest opponents
of engagement with Cuba.
Last-ditch effort to sway Trump
Before Donald Trump assumed
the presidency, two prominent proengagement
coalitions wrote letters urging
him to continue engagement with the
island. The Cuba Study Group and 17
other cosigners asked Trump to conduct
a “comprehensive evaluation of progress
made in U.S.-Cuba relations.” Dozens
of agricultural groups signed a letter that
said: “We urge you not to take steps to
reverse progress made in normalizing
relations with Cuba, but also solicit your
support for the agricultural business sector
to expand trade with Cuba.”
An exchange between the Bronx Museum
of the Arts and the Cuba’s National
Museum of Fine Arts fell apart after
Cuba backed out of exhibiting its artwork
in New York. The Bronx Museum
director told the New York Times that the
exchange dissipated after Cuban officials
refused to allow National Museum art
pieces to leave the country. The Bronx
Museum loaned more than 80 pieces of
art to Cuba in the summer of 2015.
Bipartisan group of lawmakers visit Cuba
Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Thad Cochran
(R-Miss.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.),
and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) joined
Reps. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Seth
Moulton (D-Mass.) on a trip to Cuba to
promote economic development. Cuban
state media reported that the delegation
met President Raul Castro to discuss the
"common interest of both countries."
renewable resources by 2030, up from
about 5 percent today.
First local TV station in Cuba
Miami’s WPLG–Channel 10, an ABC
affiliate, became the first local TV station
in the U.S. to have a full-time crew in
Havana. The team consists of reporter
Hatzel Vela and photojournalist Brian
Ely. WPLG says its arrangement with the
Cuban government comes with “no strings
Agriculture financing bill reintroduced
Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.) reintroduced
the Cuba Agricultural Exports
Act to the House in January. Sens. Heidi
Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and John Boozman
(R-Ark.) introduced a Senate version of
the bill, which aims to remove restrictions
on offering credit for agriculture exports
to Cuba. The last Congress did not vote
on previous versions of the bills.
Colorado explores ties to island
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper
visited Cuba with a business delegation
to expand ties to the island. Hickenlooper
told the Denver Post he was impressed
by the island’s entrepreneurs and that
educational exchanges would be mutually
beneficial. He also said Colorado can
share its expertise on renewable energy
and agriculture with Cuba.
12 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
Southern ports sign deals with Cuba
Days after several Florida ports backed
away from signing memorandum of
understanding with a Cuban trade delegation
that toured cities across the U.S.,
the Alabama port of Mobile signed
one with Cuba’s National Port Authority.
The deal, inked in Tampa, aims to
expand business ties between Alabama
and Cuba. The Mississippi ports of Pascagoula
and Gulfport signed similar deals in
Havana several weeks later.
China invests in renewable energy
Chinese and Cuban companies signed
10 agreements in February to expand
renewable energy on the island, according
to news agency Xinhua. The deals were
signed during a forum analyzing clean
energy cooperation strategies. Cuba hopes
to generate 24 percent of its energy from
Florida governor to ports: No Cuba trade
Three Florida ports backed away from
signing memos of understanding with a
Cuban trade delegation after Gov. Rick
Scott tweeted a threat to cut state funding
for ports that ink deals with the island.
Scott’s 2017-18 budget proposal says “no
funds in Specific Appropriations 1873
through 1876 may be allocated to infrastructure
projects that result in the expansion
of trade with the Cuban dictatorship
because of their continued human rights
Starwood delays opening of Hotel
Starwood, a subsidiary of Marriott International,
said it would open its second hotel
in Cuba on Dec. 1. The Hotel Inglaterra
in Old Havana was originally expected
to open under Starwood management in
2016. The company, which did not give
any reason for the delay, has managed the
Four Points by Sheraton in Havana since
summer 2016. H
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Up in the Air
The Surge of Flights from the U.S. to Cuba
By Emilio Morales
Photo by Jon Braeley
An American Airlines flight from Miami to Holguin touches down at sunset
Among the many changes in U.S.-
Cuba policy enacted by former
President Obama, the two that have
helped Cuba’s economy the most
are commercial flights to Cuba and
the increase in remittances. Thanks
to those policy changes, U.S. airlines
now offer daily scheduled flights to
Cuba—and several already have offices
The year 2016 saw a record 7,461
flights from the U.S. to Cuba—a 55.6
percent jump over 2015. This marked
not only the most such flights since the
1,694 recorded in 2009, but the most
ever (see Figure 1). In just eight years,
Cuba-bound flights grew 339.7 percent,
while overall air traffic to Cuba grew by
an average 22.4 percent annually.
Florida is the top source of flights
to Cuba, with Miami accounting for
6,213 of the 7,427 flights in 2016
(followed by 768 from Fort Lauderdale-
Hollywood, 413 from Tampa, and 33
from Orlando (see Figure 2).
Overall, more than 806,000
passengers flew from U.S. airports
to Cuba last year (up from 700,000
in 2015), making the United States
the fastest source market for Cuban
tourism in 20 years. Of the 2016 total,
more than half a million were Cuban-
Americans who travel to the island
annually and Cuban citizens who
returned to the island after visiting
the United States. They pay hundreds
of millions of dollars a year in airfares
and baggage fees, 95 percent of which
were paid in the United States to U.S.
entities. From 2009 to 2016, the sale
of Cuba-bound flights alone generated
about $1.8 billion for U.S. airlines.
Cuba’s tourism industry is already
starting to feel the impact of travel
from the United States. In the first half
of 2016—even before the launching of
regular U.S. commercial flights—total
U.S. tourist arrivals (including Cuban-
Americans) grew by 27.4 percent
compared to the same period in 2015.
In contrast, arrivals from Canada, still
the top source of tourists to Cuba, fell
by 6.7 percent, marking the first such
drop in 20 years (see Figure 3).
Cuba-bound flights from the
United States now dominate Cuban
airport traffic, with volume for the
final trimester of 2016—when regular
commercial flights were authorized—
doubling compared to the same period
in 2014 and 2015 (see Figure 4). Yet
this surge will undoubtedly strain
Cuba's tourism infrastructure, which
has not kept pace with growth. The
country needs major investments
in four- and five-star hotels—and
not just in new construction but in
the maintenance and renovation of
existing ones. Airport capacity will
have to be expanded as well as options
to bring tourists to Cuba’s interior—
all projects that can represent huge
opportunities for U.S. companies. H
Emilio Morales is CEO of the Havana Consulting Group.
14 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
Figure 1. Number of flights from United States to Cuba, 2009-2016.
Figure 2. Number of flights from Florida to Cuba, 2016.
Source: The Havana Consulting Group and Tech from daily monitoring of
the flights from the United States to Cuba from the airports of Miami, Fort
Lauderdale, Tampa Orlando and New York.
Source: The Havana Consulting Group and Tech from daily monitoring of
the flights from the United States to Cuba from the airports of Miami, Fort
Lauderdale, Tampa and Orlando.
Figure 3. Arrival of tourists from Canada and the United States in the January-June
periods of 2015 and 2016.
Tourists to Cuba January-June 2015 January-June 2016 % Growth
Canada 833,889 777,678 -6.74
United States 332,250 423,368 27.42
Difference 501,639 354,310
Source: The Havana Consulting Group and Tech form its own research and data published by Cuba’s
National Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI).
Figure 4. Number of flights from United States to Cuba (from Miami and Tampa), 2014-2016
Source: The Havana Consulting Group and Tech from daily monitoring of the flights from the United States to Cuba from the airports of Miami and Tampa.
IDEAS + INNOVATION
Start Your Engines
This whole process took over four
years, so patience is my virtue.
John Felder , CEO, Cayman Automotive
A Miami-based auto distributor is shipping electric cars to Cuba
By Nick Swyter
Photo supplied by Cayman Automotive
The streets of Havana—iconic for its
1950s Chevys and Soviet-era Ladas—will
make way for electric cars thanks to a Miami-based
auto distributor that’s won U.S.
approval to ship vehicles to Cuba.
In early January, the U.S. Commerce
Department's Bureau of Industry
and Security granted Premier Automotive
Export, a subsidiary of a Cayman
Islands auto dealer, a four-year license
to deliver electric cars and charging
stations to the island. By the end of
the month, Cuba's Ministry of Foreign
Affairs (MINREX) gave the OK for
shipments to begin.
“This took time because it was the
first time anyone in the U.S. had requested
such an approval of an export license,” said
Cayman Automotive CEO John Felder.
“This whole process took over four years,
so patience is my virtue.”
Premier is only authorized to ship
16 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
cars to non-government entities, which
includes embassies, private entrepreneurs,
and foreign-owned or foreign-managed
businesses. The cars cannot change
ownership or be re-exported without U.S.
The auto distributor’s first shipment
was a Nissan Leaf and electric charger to
the Guyanese Embassy in Havana. Crowley
Maritime Corp., which has transported
goods from the U.S. to Cuba since
2001, shipped the car in early February.
Felder says several embassies and business
have already lined up to receive the next
“Once the word got around that a
vehicle was being shipped to Cuba, the
telephone calls have not stopped yet. It’s
been unbelievable,” Felder said. Although
it is hard to predict, Felder says he expects
to ship dozens more cars and charging
stations to the island by the end of the year.
Felder is also taking steps to make
sure Havana can accommodate electric
cars, a steep task considering many of
Cuba's vehicles are decades-old and run
on diesel. The company is partnering
with New Jersey-based Advanced Solar
Products to install a network of charging
locations at gas stations across Havana.
Felder also hired a retired General Motors
engineer to train Cubans how to repair
and maintain electric cars.
Felder sees his investments in
charging stations and training as mutually
beneficial to Cuba and the U.S.
Even though electric cars are unlikely
to ever dominate the Cuban market, the
installation of charging stations will reduce
the country’s carbon footprint and
dependence on Venezuelan oil while
creating jobs on both sides of the Straits
“It’s a win-win situation,” Felder said. H
growers stand ready
to meet demand
It’s time to end
Ana Teresa Igarza,
Mariel Special Economic
Photo by Matias J. Ocner
Cuba recently sent a trade delegation to visit the ports of Houston, New Orleans, Norfolk,
Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach, and Tampa. It used the tour to promote the benefits
of investing in the Mariel Economic Special Development Zone (ZED Mariel), which
is also the island’s largest port. By offering incentives for foreigners to invest, Cuba
hopes to make Mariel a mega-shipping hub for Latin America and the Caribbean. Here
are excerpts of our interview with Ana Teresa Igarza, general director of ZED Mariel.
By Nick Swyter
CT: Tell us about your visit to the U.S.
How did the various port representatives
AI: In all of the places we’ve received a
very positive welcome. The port authorities
have been looking after us. They have
been very open, very transparent. And the
port authorities and the business community
we’ve met with have both shown a
willingness and desire to work with Cuba.
CT: Obviously, there are some changes
with the new president. Have you
noticed any differences under the Trump
AI: In relation to Cuba, no. So far, as it relates
to Cuba, there have been no changes
or new regulations different than what we
were doing with former President Obama.
CT: How did you react to Florida Gov.
Rick Scott’s threat to cut state funds
18 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
to ports that want to do business with
AI: I didn’t have to react to that. Our
interest is the development of the Port
of Mariel and the Cuban state is actually
contributing all the necessary funds to
ensure the development of the Port of
Mariel. That’s a question better suited for
the port authorities of Florida.
CT: How is progress going at the Port
of Mariel? What companies are already
AI: Right now we have 23 approved users,
of which eight are already operational. I
have to say that most of these users are
wholly owned foreign companies, which
is foreign investment into our country…
These companies come from 10 different
countries. There are four Cuban companies,
and they have focused on advanced
manufacturing, logistics, and high-technology––mostly
in the biotech industry.
There are companies from Mexico, Spain,
Brazil, the Netherlands, South Korea,
Belgium, and Vietnam, among others.
CT: Which companies would you like to
approve in the future?
AI: High-tech companies, companies in
the area of logistics, and advanced manufacturing.
You should wait for the news
and you will learn which companies are
going to be approved.
CT: I’ve read, and you have explained,
that ZED Mariel is more interested in
projects with advanced technology. But
it approved a cigarette factory, which is
not considered advanced technology.
Can you explain why?
AI: I think you are mistaken there. The
cigarette manufacturing industry is an
advanced manufacturing industry. It is
A container ship docks at the Port of Tampa Bay
not high technology, which is a different
concept. But the technology it uses falls
under the classification of modern technology,
because it uses robotics and mechanization
for the cigarette making process.
This is not something done by hand. This
is not a labor intensive industry. It is actually
a technologically intensive industry.
CT: Can you explain some of the benefits
of investing in ZED Mariel?
AI: ZED Mariel has its own regulatory
framework that sets it apart from the rest
of the country for development… It has a
very expeditious approval level. It also has
a one-stop shop system that provides users
of the zone with all the paperwork, and
getting all the authorizations and permits
and licenses. And the infrastructure available
to investors includes all of the necessary
components for the development
of their facilities, for example electricity,
water supply, IT, waste management,
and road connections. In addition, ZED
Mariel has a very attractive tax regime,
including a number of tax exemptions and
tax relief measures.
CT: In one of your presentations you
said Mariel can approve projects in 35
to 65 days. How does that happen? Does
Cuba have to make any changes to make
AI: When the file with all the documents
is OK, it is submitted to the
zone. ZED Mariel has five days to
review it through an assessment commission,
which is headed by the general
director and includes a number of experts
from organizations in the country.
Once the assessment commission OKs
the project file, there are two approval
levels… If it’s not specifically indicated
that a project needs to be approved
by the council of ministers, there is a
period of 30 days. If a file needs to be
approved by the council of ministers,
it takes about 60 days. Therefore, when
you put everything together the approval
turnaround is around 35 to 65 days
in total. Everything can be improved,
but I think what we are doing right
now is being done solidly, and with all
the expertise required for the current
CT: We’ve read several explanations on
why Cleber [an Alabama-based tractor
maker that sought to build a factory at
ZED Mariel] was not approved. We
read it was rejected because it was not
high-tech. Is that the reason or are there
AI: It is definitely related to the
technology. Cleber approached the office
and in the preliminary documents of
the application [Cleber co-founder Saul
Berenthal] said he wanted to produce
tractors. This activity falls within the
interest of the special development
zone so long as the technology supports
it… We realized the technology he
was proposing to use in the zone was
dated from 1940. It was completely
obsolete and it was not compliant with
the existing regulations in terms of
safety and work occupational health.
Therefore, we contacted him and we
communicated to him that what he was
presenting was not attractive for the
Special Development Zone, and I
don’t think it is attractive to the
rest of Cuba. H
for the Push
relations have resulted
in a lobbying boom
By Ana Radelat
Former President Obama’s normalization
of relations with Havana has prompted
dozens of U.S. companies to do something
they've never done, at least not in decades:
add Cuba and the embargo to their lobbying
agenda in Washington.
Last year, more than 120 companies,
lobbying firms, trade organizations, and
nonprofits notified Congress in writing
that they are working on Cuba issues.
That's a big jump from the three dozen or
so that filed similar forms in 2014, before
Obama’s executive orders on Cuba were
Companies that have shown a new interest
in Cuba include Hilton International
and Starwood Hotels, Chevron, Cisco
Systems, Corning, Halliburton, Marriott,
Shell Oil, Orbitz, Royal Caribbean, and
nearly every major U.S. airline. Meanwhile,
others with a long-time interest in Cuba––
including farm groups and trade associations
representing U.S. businesses––have
increased their lobbying focus on Cuba.
Many companies and organizations,
including agricultural giant Louis Dreyfus,
several state farm federations, and cable
network giant Viacom specifically instructed
their Washington representatives
to lobby for legislation that would end or
curtail the U.S. embargo.
Kendall Keith, a lobbyist for Louis
20 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
Dreyfus, said the commodity giant “is
interested in ways to facilitate trade.”
Keith said the introduction of legislation
that would facilitate payment terms
on shipments of U.S. farm products to
Cuba captured his company's attention.
He said Dreyfus is not lobbying for an
immediate end to the embargo but that
“interest has been growing to do some
minimal things. Maybe legalizing commercial
credit. That seemed to get some
traction last year.”
The number of issues involved in the
flurry of lobbying activity has increased
alongside the number of lobbyists.
The Tampa-based Florida Aquarium
hired a lobbyist to promote the reauthorization
of the Coral Reef Conservation
Act “and its implications for supporting
coordinated research with Cuba.” Cisco
Systems hired lobbyist Ian Rayder to take
part in “general discussions regarding
Cuba and (its) technology needs.” Meanwhile,
the National Association of Police
Organizations says it is lobbying to seek
“extraditions of cop-killers and violent
felons from Cuba.”
Even before this year’s bumper crop
of new registrations, lobbyists were being
hired to push for change with Cuba.
The National Cooperative Business
Association (NCBA) added Cuba to its
lobbying agenda and formed a U.S. Cuba
Cooperative Working Group just a few
months after Obama announced he wanted
to normalize relations.
“The idea is to promote U.S.-Cuba
collaboration whenever possible,” said
NCBA spokeswoman Sarah Crozier.
“Co-ops are the preferred form of business
in Cuba. As the former administration
moved to normalize relations, that accelerated
our work on the embargo.”
The Air Transport Association of
America, whose members include the
nation’s leading passenger and cargo airlines,
began lobbying on Cuba travel––alongside
major U.S. airlines––after Obama eased
travel restrictions and negotiated with the
Cuban government the re-establishments of
direct commercial flights.
The association’s lobbyist, Vaughn
Jennings, said his group’s members “serve
evolving markets all over the world” and
that Cuba suddenly became one of them.
Lobbying disclosure forms show that
even before Obama eased sanctions, the
Office of the Commissioner of Baseball
paid lobbying giant Baker & Hostetler to
work on “issues related to Cuba.” Since
then, Major League Baseball has hired
Dakota Strategies to lobby on the “issue
of tourist travel to Cuba revolving around
baseball activities.” H
“WE GROW TRADE” is a registered trademark of the World Trade Centers Association.
WE GROW TRADE ®
CELEBRATING 10 YEARS OF TAKING THE BEST OF ARKANSAS TO THE WORLD
Despite his state’s obvious
advantages for future trade
with Cuba, Florida Gov.
Rick Scott has threatened to
cut funding to ports that try
By J.P. Faber
Florida Gov. Rick Scott at a press conference on the day he tweeted his threat to ports
Photo by Jesse Romimora
The timing could not have been worse—
or better, if the intention was to embarrass
your guests. Just one day before the arrival
of a Cuban trade delegation at Fort Lauderdale’s
Port Everglades, on the very eve
of a historic ceremony to sign a memo of
understanding (MOU), Florida Gov. Rick
Scott tweeted his threat:
“I will recommend restricting state
funds for ports that work with Cuba in
He tweeted a few other barbs, but the
threat to cut infrastructure dollars for Florida
ports cooperating with their Cuban
counterparts was the one that stung. It had
dollars attached, and it took port officials
from Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale off
guard; both had scheduled press events
to showcase the MOU signing with the
National Port Administration of Cuba.
“The Governor’s position was surprising,
to say the least,” Manuel Almira, the
Port of Palm Beach’s executive director,
emailed the Miami Herald. In short order,
however, both ports backed down rather
than risk losing money from the Florida
Department of Transportation and other
state agencies—as much as $125 million
for Port Everglades alone.
22 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
“We are in a major expansion here,
and we want to make sure that it goes in
that direction,” Port Everglades executive
director Steve Cernak told Cuba Trade.
“To do trade with Cuba is an issue, because
there is an embargo in place.”
Coincidentally, Port Everglades made
history the day before the governor’s
tweet when the first cargo from Cuba to
the United States in more than 50 years
landed: a load of artisanal charcoal made
by independent Cuban farmers.
“It’s an honor when something like
that happens,” said Cernak. “But the port
itself did not do that business with Cuba.”
That kudo went to the Crowley shipping
line, and “the [federal government that]
approved it for entry.”
While port directors in Florida were
slow to criticize the governor, however,
there were howls from the editorial boards
of the local papers. “What a disappointing
trump card Gov. Rick Scott played
this week,” wrote Fort Lauderdale's Sun
Sentinel. “This economic potential deserves
the state’s support, not to be held hostage
to politics of the moment,” wrote the Palm
But why would Gov. Scott attack
trade with Communist Cuba, but not, for
example, with Communist China? When
asked that question by Cuba Trade, the
Governor’s office responded, “Florida has
a lot of Cuban refugees who have suffered
at the hands of the brutal Castro dictatorship.
At the state level, we give significant
state funds to our seaports for infrastructure
projects and the announcement that
some Florida ports were going to sign
MOU’s was concerning. Governor Scott
does not support using state funds to help
the Cuban dictatorship.”
No mention was made of China. But,
as Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiassen
wrote, “The governor has been a gushing
supporter of free trade with China, where
human rights are trampled daily by the
government.” Why then attack Cuba? The
answer, says Hiassen, is simple: Gov. Scott
is positioning himself as “a tough guy” for
the U.S. Senate race in 2018.
The trade delegation of Cuban port
officials, meanwhile, downplayed the
MOUs and said their signing was not
needed, inviting Gov. Scott to visit Cuba.
Not unexpectedly, Scott turned them
down, and instead included his threat in
his 2017-2018 state budget proposal. H
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close to the explosion of tourism.
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Gallup, more than 40% of Americans want to travel to Cuba.
And about half of those say they are VERY interested in
What this means is that hotel chains, cruise lines, private
B&Bs, airlines, travel companies, etc. will all experience excellent
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With Venezuelan support waning, a big question
is whether China wants to fill the gap
By Doreen Hemlock
Photo by Jon Braeley
Huawei Technologies shows off a smartphone at a recent trade fair in Havana
China has been Cuba’s No. 2 trade partner
for years, eclipsed only by the island
nation’s close ally and energy supplier,
Venezuela. As a fellow communist nation,
China has been a stalwart supplier of
goods and credit. But as Cuba’s economy
slips into recession for the first time in two
decades—largely due to cut backs in Venezuelan
oil shipments, loans, and aid—will
China pick up the slack?
Experts say the Asian giant likely will
cover some of the loss, partly out of political
solidarity, but not enough to replace
the massive support provided by Venezuela
for more than a decade.
The Chinese tend to be businessoriented,
say specialists in China-Latin
America relations, and Cuba doesn’t offer
too much in the way of natural resources,
guarantees for loan repayments, or investment
opportunities that could serve as a
platform for the United States or other
major markets worldwide.
“As long as Cuba continues not to have
money, the amount of support they will
get from the Chinese will be limited,” said
Evan Ellis, Latin American research professor
at the Strategic Studies Institute of the
U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa.
What’s more, the Chinese are frus-
24 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
trated by the slow pace of Cuba's economic
“China has been trying to advise the
Cuban government on ways forward with
economic reform [but] with little progress,
much to the dismay of the Chinese government,”
said Margaret Myers, director
of the China-Latin American program at
Washington's Inter-American Dialogue.
More Chinese engagement will be predicated
on reform, she said, including less
red tape for investors.
China could still become Cuba’s No.
1 commercial partner as Venezuelan trade
shrinks. Yet preliminary data for 2016 suggests
that China isn’t expanding to fill Venezuela’s
void. Chinese government statistics
for 2015 show $2.21 billion in two-way
trade with Cuba, including $1.88 billion
in Chinese sales to Cuba and $330 million
in Cuban sales to China. For the first 11
months of 2016, that trade appeared to be
running flat or slightly down: $1.96 billion,
including $1.69 billion in Chinese sales and
$270 million in Cuban sales.
In addition to stagnating, the trade is
lopsided, because China sells Cuba mainly
higher-priced telecom equipment, buses,
and industrial goods, and buys mainly sugar
and other lower-priced Cuban commodities.
Beijing already finances some sales
to Cuba, partly based on politics, offering
the island “no-interest loans you don’t
see much elsewhere in Latin America,”
said Myers. Yet that financing is relatively
limited. Myers estimates that China’s two
main development banks have provided
some $5 billion in low- or no-interest
loans to Cuba in the past decade or so.
That’s far less than Soviet subsidies to
Cuba, which topped $3 billion yearly in
the 1980s, and even less compared to Venezuela’s
contribution, estimated as high as
$7 billion annually at its peak.
The Chinese remain active on some
infrastructure projects, including wifi
expansion supplied by Huawei Technologies
and port improvements in Santiago
de Cuba estimated to top $120 million.
But other proposed Chinese ventures have
yet to materialize, including a Geely auto
plant in Mariel.
How much China compensates for
Venezuela’s decline also depends on President
Donald Trump. The Chinese were
hoping that thawing U.S relations with
Havana would accelerate Cuba’s economy
and create new opportunities for Chinese
business on the island. They’re now waiting
to see what Trump does. H
STILL THE ONLY CUBE OF ITS KIND.
Long-Standing Brands that Set the Standard
A CUBAN STOCK
Stocks and bonds from before the Revolution
are still in demand, just not at par value
Photo by Monique LaRouche
By J.P. Faber
Bob Kerstein, CEO of Virginia-based Scripophily.com holding a Cuban stock certificate
Even years after the Revolution, even
after the companies were nationalized,
shareholders of the Camaguey Sugar
Company of Cuba, the Cuban Portland
Cement Corporation, and the 7up
Company of Cuba, Inc. continued to hold
onto—and even trade—their increasingly
worthless stocks and bonds.
“Cuba is interesting because the
bonds were still traded after Castro took
over, until [the holders] realized they
could never be redeemed,” says Bob Kerstein,
Virginia-based CEO of scripophily.
com, a company that specializes in the
sale of original stock certificates. “After
Castro took over Cuba the prices were
way down, but they were still hoping the
U.S. would invade.”
Today those stocks and bonds are
experiencing a small rally. Collectors seek
them as valuable mementos, like baseball
cards from Cuba’s capitalist past. “It’s
picked up recently because of the opening
of ties and our relationship with Cuba,”
says Kerstein. “These are pieces of history,
and they all tell a story.”
26 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
Scripophily.com sells about two
dozen different Cuban financial certificates,
including ones from railways, power
companies, hotels, and banks, all long
gone. Prices range from $9.95 for a Camaguey
Sugar Company stock certificate
(100 shares!) to $295 for a 100 peso bond
issued in 1882 by a railroad company in
Guantánamo. Kerstein says shares from
sugar companies are the most popular.
Kerstein is far from alone in catering
to a growing interest in collectables
from Cuba’s past, and the mystique of its
memories. Leslie Pantín, a Miami-based
PR professional, is also the proprietor of
the annual Cuba Nostalgia show. Last
year the fair attracted 30,000 visitors who
came for the sights and sounds of Cuba’s
past, including a chance to buy memorabilia.
“With everything that is happing in
Cuba there is a fascination with Cuban
things, all over the place,” says Pantín,
who has put on the weekend-long show
for the past 18 years. “The difference now
is that when we started, there were people
who just sold memorabilia, something
that was in their Florida room or in their
garage. Now we have a lot of people who
do this as a business.”
On Miami’s Coral Way, for example,
a store called the Cuban Museum sells
everything from old Havana phone books
to silverware from the presidential palace
(now the Museum of the Revolution).
The store also sells stocks and bonds, but
don’t have quite the range as Kerstein.
Kerstein's catalogue of offerings
includes certificates from numerous times
and places in history, but he gets a special
kick out of his Cuban collectables, which
he acquires at auctions, from private individuals,
and “as we come across them.”
“About 15 years ago I got a lot from
an old warehouse,” says Kerstein. “Victor
Astor was big in Cuba at one time, and
many of them had his name on them.”
And for a mere $34.95 customers can
own a 100-share stock certificate issued
in 1947 by Victor, son of hotel magnate
John Jacob Astor, for the Vertientes-Camaguey
Sugar Company of Cuba. H
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For Cubans who travel back and forth between Miami and
their island home, Ño Que Barato has become an institution
By Ariana H. Reguant
Photo by Matias J. Ocner
Shoppers hunt for deals at Ño Que Barato in Miami's Hialeah neighborhood
At the start of every school year, families
line up outside the studios of America
TV––a popular local Spanish-language
television station in a Miami suburb––to
receive a backpack filled with school
supplies, courtesy of Ño Que Barato.
Hundreds of children are served, and
every immigrant home knows storeowner
Serafín Blanco gives back to the community.
Indeed, Ño Que Barato is more than
Blanco, a Cuban immigrant, founded
Ño in 1996 to cater to the newly arrived
balseros who, unlike earlier migrant
cohorts, remained in close communication
with their families on the island.
Some 20,000 immigrant visas were being
granted every year to Cubans and, by the
end of the decade, both Cuba and the
U.S. had eliminated travel restrictions for
Cuban-Americans returning for family
visits. This led to a growing consumer base
for underpriced clothes, shoes, and plastic
household wares that could be transported
Known for his sense of humor, Blanco
came up with a business name that was
a stroke of genius. “Ño” is shorthand for
a colloquial swear word that denotes surprise.
The entire expression, Ño Que Barato,
could be translated as “Wow, that’s cheap.”
The motto quickly stuck. As the store’s
advertisements proclaim, “the name says
it all.” In addition, the candid promotions
on local TV, spoken directly to the camera
by program anchors, local celebrities, or
Blanco himself, convey proximity and familiarity,
as in “I am one of you.” Any day
of the week, people flock in to buy—by
the dozen and by the pound.
Located in an industrial area of
West Hialeah outside of Miami, Ño Que
Barato functions like a department store.
The large warehouse space, lacking in
air-conditioning, is filled with racks of
cheap clothing and shoes for men, women,
and children, including school and work
uniforms, guayaberas, lingerie, baptismal
baby robes, and beddings. At Ño, one can
also find religious objects, USB drives,
unlocked cell phones, perfumes, watches,
mosquito netting for beds, hand fans, and
everything else conceivably useful in Cuba.
Along the walls, independent sellers rent
counter space with specialty services and
merchandise, like optic and jewelry shops.
On the floor, the sales staff is older, much
like the average shopper.
A life-size statue of San Lázaro, also
known as Babalú Ayé in Afro-Cuban
religions, greets the public and guards the
store. San Lázaro—St. Lazarus—was an
old beggar who suffered from leprosy and
was saved by Jesus in the New Testament;
as they exit the store, many patrons leave
spare change at his feet as a sign of respect
and devotion. As Babalú Ayé, however,
he experienced a rebirth and became a
righteous ruler who punished humans for
When thieves broke into Ño Que
Barato last year, they might have thought
they could escape the saint’s wrathful
watch. Police caught them in the act, and
one who ran was later found unconscious
inside a hot industrial dryer in the laundromat
next door. At Ño Que Barato, staff
and clients expressed relief, knowing well
that under San Lázaro’s watch, no bad
deed goes unpunished—and no good one
goes unrewarded. H
28 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
US-Cuba Trade Relations &
“As proud members of the USACC,
we support improved trade relations
and thank the efforts of the coalition.”
We aim to create stable and synergistic consensus,
trade, and foreign direct investment
How a Vermont
Cuba’s Tennis Federation
courts in Havana.
Next: Grass Courts?
Photo courtesy of Kids on the Ball
By Oscar Musibay
Jake Agna, founder of Vermont-based Kids on the Ball Program, on the courts in Cuba
At its height in 1991, Cuba's National
Tennis Federation was host to tennis
players from across the Americas, as part
of the 39-nation Pan American Games.
Its courts were immaculate.
Twenty-five years later the 10
concrete courts in Havana were cracked,
faded, and basically unusable. In some
cases, players used a cord between chairs
to simulate the net. Cuba’s national tennis
courts needed a $600,000 overhaul.
“They were the worst I have ever
seen,” said Jake Agna, founder of Vermont-based
Kids on the Ball Program,
who first visited Cuba in 2014. “Yet I
counted 100 kids there ranging in age from
5 to 20 that were using it regularly. They
didn’t have a choice.”
Despite the difficulties, the facility
was also where the Cuban Davis Cup team
practiced. So, Agna recruited Hinding
Tennis of West Haven, Conn., to take on
the resurfacing project.
Finding a contractor to do the work
turned out to be the easy part. It took 18
months for the project to get clearance
from both U.S. and Cuban officials. It finally
received U.S. approval via a “human-
30 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
itarian” classification from the Department
of Commerce, which made sense since
Kids on the Ball’s nonprofit mission is to
use tennis to improve the lives of at-risk
youth. A for-profit project would have
stalled, said brothers Tom and Steven
Hinding, of Hinding Tennis.
Helping them along the way was
Cuban Sports Minister Alberto Juantorena,
Agna said. On the U.S. side, the tennis
pros engaged Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
as well as the Cuban American Friendship
Society (CAFS) of Burlington, Vt., with
the latter doing all the legal heavy lifting.
The memorandum of understanding that
moved the project forward identifies
CAFS as the licensed exporter of the
Not unexpectedly, there were a few
glitches that contributed to cost increases,
said Steven Hinding. Temperature and
humidity were factors; the project was approved
in the spring of 2016, but didn’t get
started until November, when the weather
was more manageable (and past the rainy
season). Cuban officials then delayed
Crowley Maritime Corp.’s delivery of the
five shipping containers that held all the
necessary new equipment and materials.
The containers were to be delivered to the
site by Nov. 21, but it took nearly another
week, which meant additional crew costs.
Without the shipping containers, no work
“Whether you need a gas can or a
screwdriver, there is no Home Depot or
Lowe’s,” explained Hinding. “The hardware
store they have down there is the size
of a one-car garage and they don’t take
credit cards.” Fidel Castro’s death on Nov.
25 also meant the city and its resources
were shut down for nine days.
But in the end, all the work was
“It was the most challenging project
we have undertaken, but also the most
gratifying,” Hinding said.
Agna is now looking to raise $1.2
million to reconstruct two grass courts that
were part of the facility, as well as a tennis
federation building that includes showers,
a weight room, and a conference space.
“We are looking for sponsors that can
help us with the money,” he said. After
that, it’s time to train for the Olympics or
Wimbledon, whichever comes first. H
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From pesky weed to artisanal export
Charcoal made from marabú, a plant known for ravaging Cuba’s farms,
is the first cargo shipment to the U.S. in more than 50 years
By Nick Swyter
While rum and cigars may be Cuba’s
most iconic products, charcoal made from
a weed known for decimating its farmlands
was the first Cuban cargo to unload
at a U.S. port in more than 50 years.
About 40 tons of marabú charcoal arrived
at Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades
at the end of January. The charcoal was
delivered by Crowley Maritime Corp., a
company that has shipped U.S. agriculture
goods and medicine to Cuba since 2001.
“There were three years of development,
so it was really nice to see that come to
fruition,” said Jay Brickman, who leads
Crowley’s Cuba services.
The export was made possible thanks
to an Obama administration change that
allows some products made by private
individuals to be exported to the U.S. The
producers must prove they are independent
of the Cuban government.
“Marabú charcoal is cut and produced
by private Cuban cooperatives, providing
them with a growing market less
than 100 miles away,” said Scott Gilbert,
chair of Reneo Consulting LLC—the
group that arranged the charcoal deal.
Gilbert also represented former USAID
32 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
Marabú exports to the U.S.
are just a drop in the bucket,
but it is significant that this
subcontractor Alan Gross, who was jailed
in Cuba for five years before the U.S. and
Cuba normalized relations.
After unloading at Port Everglades,
the marabú charcoal was delivered to
Hialeah-based Fogo Charcoal, which
repackaged it in 33-pound bags for retail
customers. Fogo describes the charcoal
as having a neutral flavor with a long and
hot burn—making it ideal for baking
bread and pizza.
The conversion of marabú from
invasive plant to charcoal marks a turning
point for Cuban farmers. The woody weed
has a reputation for overruning otherwise
fertile farmland. According to an International
Model Forest Network report,
the plant covers an estimated 1.7 million
hectares of once productive land in Cuba.
“Now it can be used to produce this
fantastic artisanal charcoal, thereby clearing
the fields and making them available
for agricultural growth,” Gilbert said.
Fred Royce, a University of Florida
staff member specializing in Cuban
agriculture, says marabú could potentially
become an important cash crop. Cuba
has been shipping thousands of tons of
charcoal to Europe and Latin America for
years. The country is also seeking foreign
investors to help build power plants
that convert marabú and sugar cane into
“Marabú exports to the U.S. are just a
drop in the bucket,” Royce said. “But it is
significant that this deal happened.”
It’s not yet clear whether the charcoal
will stick in the U.S. market. Cuban
sellers should be encouraged that Fogo’s
pre-orders sold out before the first shipment
reached U.S. shores. But, according
to the Associated Press, Reneo Consulting
purchased the charcoal for $420 per
ton—significantly more than the $360
per ton market price for regular charcoal.
It’s not yet clear whether American consumers
are willing to pay a premium for
artisanal charcoal. H
BEFORE THE EMBARGO,
Cuba was the top
destination for our rice.
LET’S GET THERE AGAIN.
How one family of farmers
in Eastern Cuba made the
transition to becoming a
By Doreen Hemlock
Photo by Jon Braeley
Hundreds of small roses, some red, yellow and pink, and some two-toned, ready for transport.
Drive off the main road, down rocky dirt
lanes, past concrete houses with cactus
hedges, past men on horseback wearing
wide-brim hats, and you’ll reach the farm
of the Sanchez family in Cuba’s eastern
province of Holguín.
Like his father before him and grandfather
before that, Isidro Sanchez Jr. works
the land as an independent farmer. But
these days, the sturdy 45-year-old has lots
more options of how to do business.
The Sanchez family received its plot
as part of a government redistribution
after Cuba’s 1959 Revolution. For decades,
they depended on the state as an intermediary
to buy and distribute produce from
their farm. The family received payment
34 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
only in cash, and only in Cuban pesos.
But with recent economic reforms,
Sanchez now has a license to sell directly
to buyers as well as to the state. He’s
teamed up with fellow entrepreneurs in a
venture that offers landscaping and related
services to hotels and others. And he can
be paid in pesos, Cuba’s CUC currency, or
even by check.
“Now, when we get big contracts, I
can hire more people,” said Sanchez, walking
shirtless through his small farm that
grows ornamental plants, from palm trees
to roses. “Before, I couldn’t do that.”
More options means chances for
higher income. By selling direct, Sanchez
can charge more than what he’d get from
a state intermediary. His clients can get a
better deal without middlemen—a lower
price and longer-term guarantees on the
quality of the produce, for instance. And
he can pay the government more; his 10
percent tax paid on higher revenue puts
more cash in state coffers.
Sanchez now proudly employs six
people full-time and up to 18 on major
landscaping projects. Yet like other entrepreneurs
in Cuba, he faces challenges,
especially to obtain supplies. There are no
wholesale markets or retail stores to buy
farm inputs, so he relies on government
“Sometimes, it’s a bit hard to get fertilizer,
because you have to wait until the
Doing Business in Cuba - Market Entry - Partner and Joint Venture Development
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Consultation on industry targets in the
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Photo by Jon Braeley
Isidro Sanchez Jr. walking shirtless through his small farm.
state brings it to you and sells it to you,”
said Sanchez during a walk through fields
at the farm.
Misleidys Gonzalez, 33, teamed up
with Sanchez several years ago to sell
landscaping services and floral arrangements
to hotels and others under the
Belleza Maxima or Bellmax name. She’d
left her job as a government nurse earning
less than $20 per month, hoping to
expand her horizons. She chose Sanchez
as her farming partner in this eastern
province, partly for practical reasons.
“He’s very responsible and hard-working,
has good fertile land to develop, and
had a truck. With the vehicle, we could
easily transport plants and crews,” said
Gonzalez. “Renting vehicles costs more.”
Sanchez still sells some products through
state intermediaries. Among them are
36 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
the old man
a lot more
flowers bound for cemeteries—including
Santa Ifigenia in Santiago de Cuba, where
Fidel Castro’s ashes are buried. On a recent
weekday, his crew filled a trough with
hundreds of small roses—some red, yellow
and pink, and some two-toned—all ready
for transport. Quipped Sanchez’s jocular
dad, Ignacio Sr., already 82: “Now that the
old man [Fidel] died, they’re buying a lot
more flowers for the cemetery.” H
Cuba has become more open to
foreign films and Hollywood
because it's good for the economy.
Fermin Rojas on location in Havana
HOW AMERICAN COMPANIES ARE TACKLING THE
NUANCES OF AUDIO-VISUAL PRODUCTIONS IN CUBA
By Suzette Laboy
For the last half-century, Cuba has been
forbidden territory for American film
companies. Following the 1959 Revolution,
directors who wanted Caribbean
settings—or even faux Cuban backgrounds—had
to settle instead for the
Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico.
But since diplomatic relations
have eased between the Cold War foes,
Hollywood and other media industries
are turning their attention—and
dollars—to the island. The full-length
feature “Papa Hemingway in Cuba,” was
filmed on the island in 2015. Discovery
38 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
Channel’s “Cuban Chrome” depicted its
obsessive car culture. Comedian Conan
O’Brien and chef Anthony Bourdain
both filmed episodes in Cuba for their
TV shows. Hollywood blockbusters
“Transformers: The Last Knight”
and “Fate of the Furious,” were also
filmed there, as was Martin Scorsese’s
documentary about the Rolling Stones
concert in Cuba, “Havana Moon.”
Not only do these productions require
substantial expenditures to bring equipment
into Cuba, they also require permits
and connections. For this, filmmakers
typically turn to European or Canadian
companies to help them through the
“It’s absolutely essential to use somebody
that knows what they are doing,”
said Cuban-American filmmaker Fermin
Rojas, who contracted a Canadian production
company in 2012 to help obtain
permits for “Alumbrones”––a documentary
that follows 12 Cuban artists living in
Havana. “That was the only company at
the time who had been doing it for, like,
Last year, the Obama adminstration
Cuba is unknown
locations that have
never been used
before by American
CEO of Cuba International Network
Pasternak testing a new camera system in Havana
gave the green light for Florida-based
Cuba International Network (CIN) to
provide equipment and personnel to
American companies filming in Cuba.
“Cuba is unknown territory, with
locations that have never been used
before by American companies,” said
company CEO Barry Pasternak of Cuba’s
allure. “We handle it from concept to
completion,” with everything from film
equipment to food service, soundstage,
Although CIN has yet to work on
any major productions on the island,
Pasternak—an Emmy award winning
veteran of the TV industry—has consulted
on various projects, including the
uplink of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball
game watched by President Obama
during his 2016 visit to Cuba. CIN now
has the availability and approval to bring
in equipment for full production work, as
well as experience with Cuban authorities
on getting proposals approved and
Moviemaking in Cuba can be
challenging. Filming requires work and
location permits via the state film commission
Asociacion Cubana del Audiovisual
(Cuba’s Audiovisual Association). Among
other things, strict script approvals are
required. On the technical side, CIN
works with Cuba’s Instituto Cubano del
Arte e Industria Cinematográficos (the
Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art
and Industry or ICAIC).
Like many industries now exploring
opportunities in Cuba, filmmaking is
waiting to see what the Trump administration
“I get requests just about every
day regarding any potential threat to
U.S.-Cuba engagements that have
been so fruitful and advanced over past
two, three years,” said Bill Martinez, a
California-based attorney who works on
U.S.-Cuba cultural exchanges and artists’
Before the Obama administration,
filmmaking in Cuba required a specific
license. Now filmkmakers no longer
need to formally apply to the Treasury
Department’s Office of Foreign Assets
Control (OFAC), which enforces trade
sanctions. It is “based on good faith that
you are there to actually do filmmaking
and not drink mojitos on the beach,”
“Cuba has become more open to
foreign films and Hollywood because it’s
good for the economy," said filmmaker
Pasternak added: “We all need to
work together so the industry can promote
the areas that are going to become major
profit centers [and] we could be a major
assistance to the government of Cuba
because we can bring these people to the
table.” He also said U.S. companies would
employ Cuban technicians and artists to
work on projects, from major league sports
to entertainment, music concerts, and
Politics aside, Pasternak said the
future for the industry in Cuba looks
promising. “What’s really happening is we
believe these are the kinds of things that
Americans want to see: Sports from Cuba,
the Latin jazz, to really be able to see a live
concert,” he said. “It’s not a tourist thing,
it’s a cultural thing.” H
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n Customized Training Services
40 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
AMERICAS TRADE SHOWS:
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than 17,000 buyers to Miami. Upcoming shows include the 21st annual Americas Food
& Beverage Show and the 14th Biennial Air Cargo/Sea Cargo Americas Trade Show and
Conference. Reported sales at these shows exceed US$239 million.
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bringing foreign buyer missions to trade shows.
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are starting to play
a vital role in business
By Nick Swyter
When Cuba legalized the U.S. dollar in
1993, it was difficult to use remittances
for anything other than food, household
goods, and utilities. Now, after 24 years of
changes in U.S.-Cuba remittance policies,
cash transfers are so valuable that they are
propelling private businesses on both sides
of the Straits of Florida.
Elsa Vazquez Velar is just one of
several small U.S. business owners who
use money remitters to pay Cubans for
services in the private sector. Her business,
CasasCuba B&B, consists of several casas
particulares (bed & breakfasts) in Santiago
de Cuba. Vazquez Velar manages reservations
from her home in Miami, and uses
Western Union to pay her uncle in Santiago
de Cuba for welcoming those guests.
“I have no complaints,” Vazquez Velar
said. “Obviously, we are over here and my
uncle is running the B&Bs over there, but
it is still very efficient.”
CasasCuba B&B is not alone in
using money remitters to pay for services
in Cuba’s burgeoning private sector. Its
best-known competitor, hospitality giant
Airbnb, pays many of its hosts through the
Miami-based remitter VaCuba.
The casas particulares industry's use
of money remitters to pay hosts illustrates
how remittances are pivoting towards
conducting business transactions. U.S. and
Cuban policy changes helped make that
42 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
pivot happen at an astonishing speed.
According to the Havana Consulting
Group, annual remittances to Cuba rose
by 116 percent from 2008 to 2014, making
Cuba the fastest-growing remittance
market in Latin America. Cash transfers
to Cuba––worth more than $3 billion
dollars in 2015—now rank among one of
the most valuable sectors of the Cuban
The Cuban government has authorized
several money remitters to operate
on the island, though none are as recognizable
as Western Union. Today, WU
facilitates cash transfers worth thousands
of dollars each at more than 400 locations
throughout the country.
WU set up shop in Cuba in 1999,
six years after the Cuban government
legalized the possession of the U.S.
A Western Union office in Havana
dollar as a way to offset its dependence
on the collapsed Soviet Union. In order
to operate in Cuba, the company signed
a contract with FINCIMEX, the Cuban
government entity that manages—and
takes a cut from—all remittance wire
transfers to the country. WU charges a fee
of 8 to 10 percent. Since then, the amount
and frequency of WU’s cash transfers has
been largely dependent on U.S. policy.
Remittance flows to Cuba fall into
three eras: Clinton, Bush, and Obama.
Wire transfers first took shape
under the Clinton presidency. Cubans
mostly used those transfers to pay for
food, household goods, and repairs. Even
though remittance flows to Cuba were
relatively small during those years, some
Cubans used the foreign capital to finance
small private businesses.
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• Accommodations for two, four or six people.
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Under the Bush administration, it
became more difficult for Cubans to use
remittances to finance private businesses.
In 2004, Bush tightened the policy to
allow Cuban emigrés to send no more
than $300 to relatives every three months.
Authorized Cuban-Americans were only
allowed to travel to the island once every
three years—cutting off another valuable
avenue for remittances.
Under Obama, remittance flows
skyrocketed and became an invaluable
resource for aspiring Cuban entrepreneurs.
In 2009, Obama increased the remittance
limit to $500 per quarter. By September
2015, that restriction had been lifted
entirely, along with the $10,000 limit
that authorized travelers were allowed to
carry to Cuba. Those loosened restrictions
paved the way for entrepreneurs to finance
everything from ingredients for a private
restaurant to the remodeling of homes
“It is the principal support for the private
sector,” said Emilio Morales, CEO of
Havana Consulting Group. He added that
Cubans are also using remittances to pay
for telephone bills, hotel stays, and flights
to visit relatives outside the country.
Western Union appears to be embracing
its role as an intermediary for business
transactions in Cuba’s private sector. In
June 2016, WU innovated by putting its
CasasCuba B&B 's Elsa Vazquez Velar (center) and staff
Cuba cash transfer services online and
on mobile apps—making transfers more
convenient than ever.
“To have the service and do it right
away right from my office is priceless,”
said CasasCuba B&B’s Vazquez Velar. She
recently helped guests who ran out of cash
during their stay in Santiago de Cuba by
referring them to WU’s online services.
Even though remittance flows to
Cuba are at an all-time high, Morales
warns that WU may have some challenges
on the horizon. Unlike many
other sectors of the Cuban economy, real
competition exists among money remitters.
VaCuba is an up-and-coming rival
since it already conducts transactions for
Airbnb and does direct delivery for many
of its cash transfers. Moneygram and
TransCard are also serious competitors.
Even PayPal has announced its intentions
to enter the fray, though up until
now it has actively blocked transfers that
“It could be the end of an era, because
there are going to be other competitors,”
Money remitters must also keep a
close watch on President Trump’s approach
to Cuba. Trump has made several non-specific
threats to undo Obama’s Cuba
opening. Just like Bush, he could decide to
tighten the current remittance policy. H
U.S. CASH TRANSFERS TO CUBA
Cuba legalizes the use of the U.S. dollar. Most
remittances to Cuba are delivered by hand
through visitors to the island.
Cuba’s FINCIMEX creates American International
Services to create contracts with
money remitters from around the world.
Canada-based TransCard becomes the first
foreign company in Cuba to handle cash
transfers. Customers transfer cash to Cuba
by loading a beneficiary’s debit card.
Western Union enters Cuba after signing a
contract to work with FINCIMEX. It opens
with dozens of locations throughout the
President Bush tightens the remittance
policy. People can send only $300 to immediate
family members every three months.
Authorized travelers are only allowed to visit
the island once every three years.
President Obama raises the remittance limit
to $500 per quarter. Travel limitations are
loosened and authorized visitors are allowed
to carry $3,000 to the island.
In January, President Obama increases the
remittance limit to $2,000 per quarter and
allows authorized travelers to carry $10,000
in cash to the island. By September, the limits
are lifted entirely.
Western Union starts mobile remittance
The Department of Treasury expands the
list of authorized recipients of remittances
to include certain members of the Cuban
44 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
Singapore Plants its
Flag in Cuba
Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts has big ambitions
for its second destination in Latin America
By Nick Swyter
Photos supplied by Banyan Tree
The 516-room Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria on Cuba’s northern coast
Cuba’s hotel industry—which has been
dominated by Spanish brands such as
Meliá and Iberostar for the last 25 years—
is making way for a new player from Asia.
Singapore-based Banyan Tree Hotels
& Resorts plans to open four resorts in
Cuba by 2019—enclaves that will extend
their brand of “naturally-luxurious,
ecological, culturally-sensitive” properties
in anticipation of the steep growth in
tourists heading for the island nation.
While Banyan Tree is relatively
unknown to Americans, it’s a recognizable
hotel chain in Asia. The company
has dozens of luxury properties across the
continent and in parts of Africa. Now it’s
expanding its presence to Latin America
by opening resorts in both Cuba and
“In a lot of our hotels we’ve been a
relative pioneer developer,” Banyan Tree
Managing Director Des Pugson told
Cuba Trade. “Cuba fits that pioneering
spirit, combined with the medium and
46 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
long-term potential of the whole country
About 4 million people visited
the island in 2016, according to Cuban
government statistics. The country hopes
to welcome 10 million visitors annually
by 2030—but to make that happen Cuba
must speed up foreign tourism projects.
“The opportunities for the industry
to grow are really vast and enormous,”
says Richard S. Newfarmer, co-author of
a recent Brookings Institution report on
tourism in Cuba.
Banyan Tree’s Cuba play is centered
on two geographic regions. The company
recently soft-opened its 516-room Dhawa
Cayo Santa Maria on Cuba’s northern
coast, about 70 miles east of Santa Clara.
It plans on opening an adjacent 220-room
Angsana Cayo Santa Maria by November
of this year. Banyan Tree’s other destination
will be Cayo Buba, a small island
known for its mangroves that sits next to
Varadero’s resort strip. The company plans
on opening adjacent resorts here by 2019.
As is required by Cuban law, Banyan
Tree is partnering with state enterprise
Gaviota SA to build its resorts. Pugson
says Banyan Tree has a management
agreement with Gaviota that allows the
Singaporean company to manage properties
owned by the state enterprise.
Opponents of U.S. engagement
with Cuba consider the move controversial
because Gaviota reports to the
Cuban Ministry of Defense (MINFAR).
According to the recent Brookings report,
Gaviota controls about 25 percent of the
rooms available to international tourists.
U.S.-based Starwood also partnered with
Gaviota for its Four Points by Sheraton
hotel in Havana.
“As an owner they have been very
supportive. They have delivered the hotel
on time, which is pretty good,” said
Pugson, adding that it's not his place to
comment on U.S. skepticism of Gaviota.
While U.S. companies interested in
The lobby of the 516-room Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria
Cuba have earned a lot of media attention,
Banyan Tree’s entry highlights Singapore’s
growing desire to forge relationships
with the island. That's evident with
PSA International, a Singaporean port
operator that signed on to manage Cuba’s
ambitious Mariel Special Economic
Development Zone in 2011.
The Singapore-Cuba relationship
appears to be moving forward despite
the two countries having little in
common. About the only similarity is
that they are both island-nations with
strong central governments. In 1959,
Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore embraced
free-market capitalism while Fidel
Castro’s Cuba inched towards Sovietstyle
communism. Singapore is also
renowned for streamlining bureaucracy
for foreign companies. Cuba does not
have the same reputation. Regarding
tourism, Singaporean hospitality brands
tend to promote modernity while Cuba
specializes in nostalgia. The two countries
are also separated by an 11-hour time
These stark comparisons beg
the question: Why is a Singaporean
hospitality company betting big on Cuba?
“The progression to Latin America
is just us spreading our wings that much
further, to where the great opportunities
exist,” Pugson said. “It’s quite clear that
now, and when we started working with
the owners, that there was going to be
future opportunity [to capture tourists]
from places like Europe and the U.S.”
Pugson added that he is confident
Banyan Tree can shake-up Cuba’s tourism
industry by offering perks that aren’t
available at other hotels. Banyan Tree
plans on installing wifi in every guest
room. The company is also making a push
to attract younger customers—as opposed
to the couples and older families who
have tended to visit Cuba’s beach resorts.
What makes Banyan Tree stand out
from the competition, says Pugson, are the
interactions between staff and customers.
While many foreign enterprises have
criticized the Cuban government for
making them hire and pay employees
through a state staffing agency, in recent
years these practices have been loosened
to permit foreign companies to choose
from a pool of potential employees—and
to offer them minor performance bonuses.
Pugson says Banyan Tree has had success
selecting its staff through this system.
“[Gaviota] provided the potential
candidates to us for the hotel, so we’ve
been able to have a choice,” Pugson said.
“They are not the ‘it’s just a job’ brigade.
We’ve been able to pick a younger group
desiring to learn, desiring to grow, and
have that sort of passion to do well.”
In total, Banyan Tree is expected to
bring some 1,250 hotel rooms to Cuba
by 2019. The country has made foreign
investment in tourism a priority and it
aims to add 108,000 rooms to its current
roster of about 60,000 rooms by 2030. H
Without sugar, there
is no country.
Elsys Pupo, Lopez Peña Sugar Mill
Photos by Jon Braeley
Cuba’s sugar harvest this season should
be the biggest in years, and even though
it’s starting from a small base, it could
have an economic impact.
A Sugar Comeback?
By Doreen Hemlock
Lopez Peña, a sugar mill in Eastern Cuba
In her 32 years working in the sugar industry,
Elsys Pupo has seen lots of change.
When she was younger, sugar was so vital
to the economy that Cubans would say,
“Without sugar, there is no country.” But
after the Soviet Union's collapse and end
of subsidies from Moscow, officials closed
nearly half the island’s mills, leaving more
than 200,000 sugar workers unemployed.
This year, Pupo is proud that the Lopez
Peña mill where she works in Eastern
Cuba’s sugar heartland is again grinding
cane. Last year, a drought––followed by
heavy rains––hurt cane production, and
harvests were too small to supply the
area's mills. But this season, some 430
48 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
people are busy at Lopez Peña, up from
the 255 employed last season only for
“Now we are more technologically
advanced,” said the 50-year-old agro-industrial
technician. “Now, you can watch
the entire process of the factory from one
Pupo’s not the only one optimistic
about sugar nowadays. Sugar will likely
grow faster than any other sector of the
Cuban economy this year, Economy Minister
Ricardo Cabrisas recently told the
National Assembly. With better weather
and new machinery helping boost sugar
production, output could rise as much as
12 percent this harvest season, when 54
mills are set to grind. That's up from 50
mills last season, said Liobel Perez, spokeman
for state sugar company Azcuba.
The result could be a boon for the
overall economy. Expansion in sugar could
help Cuba’s economy grow about 2 percent
this year, reversing a 0.9 percent drop
in 2016, according to Cabrisas––although
some economists predict a continuing
slide in the economy.
The timing is good, because sugar
ranked among the best-performing commodities
worldwide in 2016. Prices rose
on growing demand, including a shift by
Hershey and some other producers from
genetically-modified sugar beets to cane as
a source for sweeteners in their candy. In
mid-January, world sugar prices topped 20
cents per pound, up by more than 5 cents
from a year earlier, according to futures
This is positive news for Cuba’s quest
to increase export earnings, now that
Venezuela has cut back on oil shipments,
loans, and other support to its socialist ally.
“Cuba has to gain foreign exchange
somehow, and sugar is one of the few exports
not controlled 49 percent by foreign
companies, unlike tobacco, rum, nickel
and cobalt,” said Jorge Salazar-Carrillo, a
professor of economics at Florida International
To be sure, the growth comes off
a relatively small base. A century ago,
after World War I decimated European
production, Cuba ranked as the world’s
largest sugar producer. During the Soviet
era, Cuba became a top sugar supplier for
the USSR and Eastern Europe, producing
more than 8 million tons in its peak year.
But in recent decades, production has
plunged. Cuba’s share of world exports
dropped from roughly 23 percent in 1989
during the Soviet heyday to 8 percent in
2002 and less than 1 percent now, said
Salazar-Carrillo. Cuba’s annual sugar
output has been running below 2 million
tons for years and even fell to 1.1 million
Cuba Sugar Production 2010-2017 (thousands of tons)
2010/11 2011/12 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15 2015/16 2016/17
tons earlier this decade, its smallest output
in about half a century.
Many factors limit production. The
invasive marabú weed has taken over much
of the island’s farm land. Railroads are old,
as are many mills. And even the quality of
Cuban cane is waning. “In other countries,
they take out the old cane and plant new
cane that has better quality yields,” said
During Soviet times, Cuba’s sugar
harvest had become highly mechanized.
The USSR provided machinery, fertilizer,
fuel, and other supplies, and it bought
Cuban sugar at inflated prices. When that
support ended, Cuba lacked the funds to
buy supplies at market rates. By 2002, with
production costs high and output waning,
Cuba decided it no longer made sense to
keep so many old mills open and closed
A sugarcane harvester cutting cane in Eastern Cuba
dozens. The only celebrated upgrade was a
mill in Cienfuegos under management by
Brazilian company Odebrecht SA.
Today, Cuba no longer ranks among
the world’s 10 largest sugar producers;
Brazil and India are on top. And sugar’s
not even one of Cuba’s top five exports; it
trails far behind medical services provided
by doctors and other professionals overseas.
The island now consumes 600,000 tons
of its own sugar per year––more than the
400,000 tons it’s contracted to sell China
But union leader Pupo doesn’t fret
that sugar is no longer center-stage for
Cuban agriculture. She’s keen on Cuba
building a diverse economy, with sugar as
just one of its pillars. “We have great potential
in tourism,” she said. “Nowadays,
we’re into tourism 100 percent.” H
Executive orders may come and
go, but only movement in the U.S.
Congress can end the half-century
economic embargo against the
island nation 90 miles from Florida
By J.P. Faber
It is an old joke, but it’s one that senators and
congressmen who oppose the embargo like to
use. “What’s the definition of insanity?” asks Rep.
Tom Emmer of Minnesota. “It’s when something
doesn’t work but you try it again and again.”
For the growing cadre of national legislators
who want to see an end to what they call “our failed
Cuba policy,” this is the first and most irrefutable
argument for ending the 55 years of U.S. economic
sanctions against the island nation. The policy simply
hasn’t worked, they say. If anything, it has backfired.
“The embargo did exactly the opposite of what
it was intended to do,” says Emmer. “The embargo
was enacted with the stated purpose of undermining
I think we should lift [the
embargo] over a period of
time. I think that would be
best for the Cuban people
themselves… A gradual
change will be in the best
interest of all parties.
John Boozman, Arkansas Senator
50 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
Cutting off trade with people so close to our shores only
meant that people there dug in with their positons. It
hasn’t given the average Cuban a say in moving toward
a more entrepreneurial system. I think it has failed.
Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota Senator
Photo by Mark Finkenstaedt
Rep. Tom Emmer (third from right) meeting with MINCEX, the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investment
the Castro regime. [But] the embargo has only empowered the
Castro regime. Common sense tells you that the embargo is the
definition of insanity.”
With this conviction in mind, Emmer introduced H.R.
442, the Cuba Trade Act, in the House of Representatives in
January. Emmer, a Republican, co-sponsored the bill along with
Rep. Kathy Castor, a Democrat from Tampa. The bill repeals or
amends all embargo legislation, from the Foreign Assistance Act
of 1961, to the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992, to the Cuban
Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996.
“The embargo will be lifted.” says Emmer. “Its time is past.”
Emmer’s fight to abolish the embargo outright is shared by
his legislative colleague from Minnesota, Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
Two years ago, she introduced the Freedom to Export to Cuba
Act of 2015 (S.491), which advocated the same repeals as Emmer’s
“Cutting off trade with people so close to our shores only
meant that people there dug in with their positions. It hasn’t given
the average Cuban a say in moving toward a more entrepreneurial
system. I think it has failed,” says Klobuchar, who plans to
reintroduce the bill again this year.
Klobuchar says her decision to push for an end to the embargo
was driven by her constituency as much by as any personal
“This wasn’t just my idea. People in my state came to me.
They were in a few different categories. One was agriculture
and farm people, who wanted to do business there. Another was
Catholic Church people who are trying to improve the human
rights situation there. Fifty years of the embargo has not helped.”
Besides concern for the Cuban people who are hurt by the
embargo, Klobuchar—who is on the Senate Commerce Committee—is
unabashed in her advocacy of U.S. commercial interests.
“We want to lift the embargo from a commercial standpoint.
We went to [the Cuban port of ] Mariel. We want to see American
ships there with American goods going in. The fact that it
has a Chinese computer system just cries out, when most ports
[in the world] use U.S. software,” she says. And, noting the anticipated
explosion of U.S. tourists heading to Cuba, “If we don’t lift
the embargo those people will be sleeping in Spanish hotels and
eating Chinese food.”
The embargo will be
lifted. Its time is past.
Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota
The question, of course, is when—and how—the embargo
gets lifted. Many of the lawmakers who want to see more
engagement with Cuba advocate a slow approach, taking the
embargo apart one piece at a time.
A leading voice for this path is Sen. John Boozman, an
Arkansas Republican who is a stalwart supporter of U.S. agriculture
interests. His state was the leading exporter of rice to Cuba
before the Revolution, and the opportunity for those farmers
to get a piece of Cuba’s $2 billion annual food import market is
Together with Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Boozman
reintroduced the Agricultural Export Expansion Act of 2017 in
February. Its aim is to lift the ban on private banks and companies
offering credit for agricultural exports to Cuba, a move that
will level the playing field for U.S. farmers and exporters. Cur-
52 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
An anti-embargo demonstration outside
the Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C.
Bipartisan support: Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Richard Durbin (D-Ill.)
in a 2015 press conference to lift the travel ban
rently, Cuba must pay cash in advance, something that is unheard
of in trade finance.
“I think we should lift [the embargo] over a period of time. I
think that would be best for the Cuban people themselves,” says
Boozman. “They do not have the infrastructure or everything in
place [to deal with full, immediate commercial reengagement
with the U.S.]. A gradual change will be in the best interest of all
While advocating a slow landing, Boozman also believes that
demands for political change in Cuba as a condition for lifting
the embargo are useless and hypocritical.
“I have to be consistent. We deal with a lot worse actors than
the Cubans on human rights [such as] the Saudis, the Vietnamese,
the Chinese—the list goes on and on,” says Boozman. “If
they are going to sponsor terrorism, that’s another matter. But
in terms of their running their own country, if we demanded
free elections first, then we wouldn’t be trading with a lot of the
Another Arkansas Republican, Rep. Rick Crawford, reintroduced
the same bill to the House in January. A long-time advocate
of opening Cuban markets to U.S. agriculture products, last
year Crawford attached a similar bill (H.R. 525) to the House
appropriations bill—the mechanism by which the government is
funded—but withdrew it after he said Cuban-American congressmen
told him they would allow a similar bill to come up for
a vote this year.
“I think there is good chance we can make this move [this
year]. I’ve done a lot of back channel work with the people who
are concerned,” says Crawford. “The difference is that this time
we went to them [South Florida politicians who favor the embargo],
to ask, ‘What do we have to do to write a bill that you will
support, that will be sensitive to your Cuban-American constituency?’”
Crawford emphasizes that his bill does not represent an endorsement
of President Obama’s policy of re-engaging Cuba, but
is strictly humanitarian, a way to help the Cuban people.
“A law that says you need cash up front is not consistent
with how we deal with other areas of the world,” says Crawford,
whose bill also puts the risk in private hands, with no bailouts
from U.S. taxpayers. “If some farmer wants to sell 10,000 tons of
soy to Cuba, he is on his own, and if he takes a bath, that is his
risk. This bill simply gives him the opportunity to the make the
THE PUSH BACK
When John F. Kennedy put in place the full embargo against
Cuba in 1962, he did so by executive order. Jimmy Carter lifted
some travel and remittance restrictions during his term, but most
54 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
Until the conditions are
met, the sanctions remain
Rep. Díaz-Balart, Republican House member from South Florida
were re-imposed by Ronald Reagan. It was not until the 1990s
that Congress passed laws that made the embargo permanent. So,
while President Obama used executive orders to punch holes in
it, only Congress can truly lift the embargo.
Members of Congress have been pushing to do just that for
more than 17 years, with little to show for it. In 2000, Congress
passed the Trade Sanctions and Export Enhancement Reform
Act (TSRA), which allowed for the sale of U.S. food and
medicine to Cuba for humanitarian reasons. But even that was
strangled by additional Bush administration regulations, which
made it impossible to finance those goods.
In 2015, the year Washington re-established diplomatic
relations with Havana, lawmakers introduced a new flurry of
anti-embargo bills in Congress. At the time, Pew Research polls
showed that nearly three-quarters of Americans favored lifting
trade sanctions against Cuba. Regardless, those bills never saw
the light of day, thanks to the efforts of a group of Cuban-American
lawmakers and their powerful allies in Congress. Among
them were Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Robert Menendez
(D-N.J.), and a trio of Republican House members from South
Florida, Reps. Mario Díaz-Balart, Iliana Ros-Lehtinen, and
While Curbelo is new to the game, the rest have been in office
long enough to have earned key positions on committees that
control the flow of legislation to the floor of the Senate and the
House. For years, they have traded their support for other issues
in exchange for support of their embargo truculence.
These lawmakers argue that the embargo has stopped the
Castro regime from “exporting its violent and repressive ideology
throughout the region,” in the words of Menendez. Embargo
proponents also argue that sanctions have weakened the regime’s
ability to repress the Cuban population. “Our sanctions have
worked,” says Curbelo.
When asked, Díaz-Balart will list the conditions for lifting
the embargo, which were largely codified by the Helms-Burton
Act of 1996. They include freeing all political prisoners, abolishing
press restrictions, and beginning the process of free elections—as
well as removing Raúl Castro from power. “Until the
conditions are met, the sanctions remain,” he says..
Díaz-Balart doesn’t appear worried by his colleagues’ efforts
on Capitol Hill to lift the embargo because “we have the votes” to
block those bills. Indeed, through control of key positions in various
committees, the Cuban-American delegation has prevented
embargo-lifting bills from reaching the floor of either the House
or the Senate for a vote.
“There is a handful of Cuban-American members of Congress
who, largely for family reasons or domestic political reasons,
continue to defend the embargo,” says Sen. Patrick Leahy, (D-
Vt.). “I don’t question the motives of those who remain wedded
to the embargo, but their numbers have sharply diminished and
A CHRONOLOGY OF THE U.S. EMBARGO AGAINST CUBA
1960 US President Eisenhower places an embargo on exports to Cuba, except
for food and medicine
1961 Eisenhower severs diplomatic ties with Cuba
1961 Congress passes the Foreign Assistance Act, prohibiting aid to Cuba and
authorizing the President to impose a complete trade embargo
1962 By executive order, President Kennedy extends the embargo to include
all imports of goods from Cuba, even if assembled outside of Cuba
1962 The Foreign Assistance Act is expanded to prohibit aid to any country
that assists Cuba
1963 Kennedy expands the embargo to include travel restrictions
1963 Kennedy issues the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, freezing all Cu
ban assets in the U.S. and giving the Treasury Department the power to
enforce the embargo via the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)
1977 President Carter lifts restrictions on U.S. citizens travelling to Cuba and
spending money there
1982 President Reagan re-imposes the travel restrictions for business and
tourism, allowing travel only for journalists, professional researchers,
and family visiting relatives
1992 The embargo is strengthened by the Cuba Democracy Act, aka the
Torricelli Law, which prevents foreign-based subsidiaries of U.S.
companies from trading with Cuba. It also bans travel to Cuba by U.S.
citizens, family remittances to Cuba, and any vessel that trades with
Cuba from entering a U.S. port for 180 days.
1996 Congress passes the Cuban Liberty and Democracy Solidarity Act, aka
the Helms-Burton Act, which extends the embargo to include foreign
companies trading with Cuba, and penalizes foreign companies that
use property formerly owned by the U.S. (or by Cubans who have since
become U.S. citizens) confiscated after the Cuban Revolution.
2000 Congress passes the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement
Act, which allows the sale of agricultural goods and medicine to Cuba
for humanitarian reasons
2005 President Bush imposes restrictions on the sale of agricultural goods to
Cuba, requiring cash in advance prior to leaving U.S. ports
2009 President Obama allows Cuban Americans to travel freely to Cuba and
permits families to send $500 a month home to Cuba
2010 President Obama eliminates the Bush restriction on agriculture finance.
Cash is still required, but not before the product is loaded
2014 President Obama announces his intentions to re-establish relations with
2015 President Obama lightens restrictions on U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba,
and lifts the restrictions on the amounts of remittances Cubans can
send or carry home. The Commerce Department begins to issue license
exemptions for the sale of some goods to Cuba.
2016 President Obama issues a series of regulatory reliefs for Cuba, including
allowing the import of Cuban biomedical drugs approved by the FDA,
loosening restrictions on U.S. citizens bringing rum and cigars home,
and permitting imports of some goods produced by private Cuban
the Cuban and American people are fed up with a failed, discriminatory
policy. They want change.”
Leahy advocates lifting all travel restrictions, and two years
ago introduced, along with Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), the Freedom
to Travel to Cuba Act (S. 299). “It is unconscionable that an
antiquated U.S. law prevents American citizens from traveling
to an island nation just 90 miles away that poses no threat to
the United States,” says Leahy. “Do we have profound differences
with the Cuban government? Of course. But there is no
other country in the world—not Iran, not Syria, not Russia, not
Vietnam, not China, not Sudan—where Americans can’t travel
because of a ban by their own government.”
Interestingly enough, none of the Cuban-American members
of Congress have been to Cuba except for Ros-Lehtinen,
who was born there and fled as a child. This is important, say
critics of the embargo. If you haven’t visited Cuba, you cannot
understand the failure of the policy.
“I took a trip down there, and what was talked about conceptually
in Helms-Burton was a long way away from what it was
doing. I began to shift,” said Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), who
along with Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) reintroduced a Freedom
to Travel to Cuba Act (H.R. 351) to the House in January.
“All that went wrong in the island was blamed on the embargo.
It was an excuse. It perpetuated power, not eliminated it,”
said Sanford. “The embargo has not worked. It has exacted real
pain on the 11 million people who make up the island of Cuba.
Those in power are able to exempt themselves from the pain of
daily life experienced by regular people.”
The economic damage wrought by the embargo has not been
one-way, either. While the Cuban government estimates that the
embargo has caused Cuba $753.69 billion in damages, the U.S.
Chamber of Commerce says it has cost the U.S. economy $1.2
billion per year in lost sales and exports. In 2014, the Peterson Institute
estimated that U.S. exports of goods and services to Cuba
could reach $5.9 billion per year if the embargo is lifted.
THE OTHER CUBAN FORCE
Largely motivated by the damage they see inflicted on
Cuba’s populace by the embargo, Cuban-Americans increasingly
oppose the policy in South Florida, the traditional stronghold of
A leading embargo opponent is Carlos Salidrigas. Among
the most successful Cuban-American businessmen in the country,
and a staunch Catholic, Salidrigas has for the last decade
56 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
Photo by Matias J. Ocner
Photo byTina-Jane Krohn
Anti-embargo donor Mike Fernández: Economic rights come first
and a half devoted himself to solving the Cuban dilemma. His
renowned Cuba Study Group, a think tank comprised of many
influential Cubans, took 10 years to conclude that the embargo
was useless at best and counterproductive at worst. He now considers
it “very unethical.”
“The [advocates for embargo] in the Cuban-American
community believe in pushing Cuba to the brink and causing
collapse, and using the people of Cuba as a weapon of mass
destruction… by starving the people so that they eventually rebel
against their own government,” he says.
Even if brutal economic pressure could lead to bloody revolt,
says Saladrigas, that is not the way to achieve democratic reform.
“There is plenty of evidence to suggest that good democratic
transitions require at least a significant amount of economic
development to go along with it. So, Haiti, for instance, had the
worst time transitioning to democracy… Poor counties don’t
Saladrigas says he believes South Florida’s Cuban-American
members of Congress are self-serving relatives of wealthy and
politically powerful Cubans ousted during the Revolution. “There
are political agendas here. There are families here that believe
they are determined by destiny to rule Cuba in the future. For
them only an outcome where there is a sudden collapse of Cuban
society and law and order—that is the only option they have to
see those dreams realized.”
Engage Cuba President James Williams: Congress must heed voters
Another leading South Florida Cuban-American against
the embargo is billionaire Mike Fernández, whose family’s
small business was nationalized by the Castro regime. Fernández
caused a stir in 2015 when he penned an open letter to the
Cuban community in the Miami Herald, declaring his choice to
rebuild Cuba. For Fernández, economic rights are more fundamental
than political rights.
“Almost nothing happens until you have secured a better
way of life for your family. The process [of change in Cuba] has
to start with economic freedom. Everything else will follow
that,” he says. “I have experienced this personally. You find a
group of Cubans on a street corner in Havana and you ask them
this question: ‘Which would you prefer of the following—300
newspapers to choose from, 500 TV stations to go through, 15
political parties from which to elect your representatives, or a
better quality of life for you and your family? And every time
they chose the last one.”
“The idea that we will somehow bully the self-protective and
sometimes abusive Castro regime into capitulating is absurd,”
says Fernández. “As much as I dislike their system of government,
you’re not going to threaten the Cubans into actions. It’s bred into
the Cuban mindset to rebel … If the failure of the Soviet Union
[in the 1990s] did not get them on their knees to ask the U.S. to
help them, then I hate to tell you, it’s not going to happen now.”
The reason a small clutch of Cuban-American congressmen
THE 16 STATES
These are the states that have set up Engage Cuba Councils
so far, that the dates their councils went live
Idaho July 2016
Minnesota Mar. 2016
Iowa May 2016
Ohio Feb. 2016
Aug. 2016 Colorado
Aug. 2016 New Mexico
Virginia Jan. 2017
Tennessee Dec. 2015
Georgia May 2016
Alabama May 2016
Mississippi May 2016
Sep. 2016 Kansas
June 2016 Texas
Louisiana Feb. 2016
Arkansas Apr. 2016
Missouri Sep. 2016
can prevent the embargo from being lifted, says Fernández, is
because the issue is not as important to their colleagues, who are
willing to trade their votes for something else they care about.
He cites the flip-flop of House Majority Leader Rep. Paul Ryan
(R-Wis.), who formerly pledged to lift the embargo, but now
supports it. Fernández believes Ryan’s support for the embargo
is a tradeoff for Cuban-American support on issues important
to him—and because Florida is such a critical swing state in the
general election. Ryan says his thinking has simply “evolved”
under the tutelage of Díaz-Balart and Ros-Lehtinen.
To bring the issue to mind for more lawmakers, Fernández
and others (he is the largest single contributor) funded
a lobbying group called Engage Cuba. Their conclusion:
congressmen won’t change their opinion on the embargo until
their constituents make them.
Engage Cuba began a grassroots campaign in 2015 to create
state councils that gave voice to voters who want new policies for
Cuba. It’s now up to 16 states, with more expected to follow.
“This is one of those issues where there is just a massive
divide and disconnect between the halls of congress and the
American people,” says James Williams, president of Engage
Cuba. “The feedback we got from members of Congress when
we went to go see them and talk about the issues, about the
polling, about the economic interests, was, ‘You know, it sounds
okay, but to be honest I’m not really hearing much about this
back home.’ So we started the idea of the state council.”
The first Engage Cuba state council was set up in Tennessee,
quickly followed by Ohio, Louisiana, Minnesota, and Arkansas.
“Our goal wasn't to change people's opinions in Tennessee.
This is one of those issues where there
is just a massive divide and disconnect
between the halls of Congress
and the American people
James Williams, president of Engage Cuba.
It was to work with the people there we knew who already
supported it [lifting the embargo] and just get them to make
sure they communicated that to their members of Congress,”
says Williams. “You know, sometimes you think that stuff just
happens, but shockingly it does not.”
Addie Bryant, Engage Cuba’s chief of staff, says they were
initially encouraged by a “heartland poll” they took of voters in
Tennessee, Ohio, Iowa, and Indiana, showing popular support
for trade with Cuba. Using these numbers and similar polls, they
began working with state legislators, agriculture commissioners,
prominent corporate citizens, and governors to lobby their
representatives in Washington.
Bryant says Engage Cuba is getting very close to assembling
the needed votes to lift the travel ban in the Senate, and to lift
agriculture finance restrictions in the House. “In the house we
feel very confident on the agriculture bill,” thanks in part to the
addition of new congressmen elected in the last election. “New
members haven’t been hit up by Mario Díaz Balart yet. They are
still listening to their constituents.”
58 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
BEYOND THE PAROCHIAL
One of the most encouraging signs about the effort to lift
the embargo is the fact that it is truly bipartisan. Virtually every
bill introduced this year has, or will be, introduced and cosponsored
by a balanced team of Republican and Democratic
“Within the last four or five years it’s been impossible for the
Congress to agree on anything,” say Luke Albee, a senior advisor
to Engage Cuba and the former chief of staff for Sens. Mark
Warner (D-Va.) and Leahy. “What’s been heartening about this
is that the legislative process appears to be working as it should.
Not only is there bipartisan support, suddenly the discussion is
going beyond a couple of zip codes in South Florida.”
As Albee notes, supporters for lifting economic sanctions
hail from a broad swath of the country’s agricultural hinterland.
“The key thing on this issue is that it is geographic, not partisan.
Any time there is a farm bill it doesn’t matter if you are Democrat
or Republican, it only matters what you grow.” Albee believes
that, had the agriculture bill gone to the floor for a vote last year,
it would have passed.
But therein lies the problem. Because of key positions they
hold and their ability to horse-trade votes, Cuban-American
congressmen have been able to stop that from happening.
One element that may change the scales in favor of the proengagement
faction is the question of national security. That issue
transcends any parochial interests—the idea that another power
might become so engaged with Cuba that it starts to use it as a
“We talk about this from an economic point of view, and I
come from an agricultural and manufacturing state,” says Emmer.
“But the conclusion I came to is that it’s really more about
national security for the Western Hemisphere.”
Crawford feels the same way. “We do need to take a long
view and we do know that Iran, Russia, and China are very
aggressive about filling the [economic] void in Cuba,” says
Crawford. “If we truly want to be an agent of change in Cuba we
need to change our posture. If that void is filled by bad actors it
will have a bad outcome.”
The worst thing we can do, say the congressmen who are
pushing for change, is to go back to a Cold War mentality of
estrangement rather than engagement.
“I think that when you trade goods and services you are
trading ideas and ideals, and that will make a big difference in
other counties,” says Boozman. “You change the world through
relationships, and you develop those with interactions and with
business. That’s how you make an impact on societies for the
Regardless of any vote in Congress, however, for legislation
to become law requires approval from the man in the White
House—unless Congress musters a veto-proof majority. Whether
the pro-engagement forces have the muscle for that, and which
direction President Trump ultimately decides to move, remains
the real enigma for the embargo. H
PENDING PRO-ENGAGEMENT LEGISLATION
UNDERWAY IN CONGRESS
There are four initiatives underway in Congress to dismantle—
or scale back—the embargo against Cuba. The first is intended
to lift the restrictions on financing agricultural exports into
Cuba; the second eliminates travel restrictions to the island; the
third codifies the telecom opening initiated by Obama; and the
fourth advocates for full repeal.
AGRICULTURAL EXPORTS TO CUBA
House bill H.R.525, the Cuba Agricultural Exports Act, was introduced
by Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.) in January. The similar
Senate bill S.275, the Agricultural Export Expansion Act, was introduced
by Sens. John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Heidi Heitkamp
(D-N.D.) in in February. Both bills are designed to lift the restrictions
on trade finance for agricultural products exported to Cuba.
FREEDOM TO TRAVEL TO CUBA
House bill H.R.351, the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act, was introduced
by Reps. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) and Jim McGovern
(D-Mass.) in January. The Senate version was introduced by
Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). Both remove
the restrictions for U.S. tourists traveling to Cuba.
House bill HR.498, the Cuba DATA Act, was introduced i by Rep.
Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) in January. The Senate version (S.1389)
was introduced in 2015 by Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.). Both bills
codify the regulatory changes made by Obama that permit U.S.
telecom companies to invest in Cuba.
LIFTING THE EMBARGO
The biggest bill of all, and the one with the least support in terms
of co-sponsors, is the Cuba Trade Act, which would basically end
the embargo. It was first introduced to the Senate in 2015 (S.1543)
by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and co-sponsored by Sens. John
Boozman (R-Ark.) and Angus King (I-Maine). A more recent version
(HR.442) was introduced to the House in January by Reps.
Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) and Kathy Castor (D-Fla).
The Cuban Mountain Coffee company
looks forward to new foreign markets—
including the U.S.—as it moves forward
with a deal to revive production in
By Victoria Mckenzie
Photos by Phillip Oppenheim
Long before the name evoked an infamous detention
center, the southeastern province of Guantánamo was
known for its beautiful mountain ranges and coffee
plantations, which produced most of the island’s high-quality
arabica beans. This was Cuban coffee at its finest, with a
worldwide reputation for excellence.
Some 90 percent of Cuba's coffee comes from Eastern
Cuba, another 8 percent from the central provinces, and the
remaining 2 percent from the western province of Pinar del
Río. Coffee no longer grows in the deforested and exhausted
soils in the plains and hills around Havana.
Cuba’s efforts to replenish its coffee exports, in partnership
with foreign investors and marketing companies, could
help resurrect its once-proud global image. One company in
particular is already beginning to make a difference. Cuba
Mountain Coffee (CMC), owned by former British Conservative
MP Phillip Oppenheim, is investing in the revival of
Guantánamo’s coffee crop and will reintroduce the beans on
the world market.
60 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
A small private coffee plantation in
San Antonio de Sur
Drying coffee in a secador at the beneficio
in the San Antonio microregion
In the high mountain ranges of Guantánamo province, conditions
are particularly favorable for cultivating specialty grade coffee.
Aided in part by winds coming off the Caribbean sea, the beans
are able to slow-ripen at much lower altitudes than in hotter
countries such as Brazil, Panama, and Colombia, resulting in a
higher complexity of flavor.
In a deal that’s been nearly five years in the making, CMC
announced in January that it had finalized terms for partnering
with Empresa Procesadora de Café Asdrúbal López Vazquez
(AL), a Cuban processing company, to market and sell arabica
beans grown by private farmers in 17 microregions throughout
Guantánamo. Those terms were expected to win final approval
this month from various Cuban government ministries, including
the Ministry of Agriculture.
CMC first announced the pending deal in August, at the
same time reporting an agreement between CMC and Nespresso
to supply the company with green coffee beans. Nespresso, a
division of Swiss food giant Nestlé, caused a flurry of excitement
across the United States in August when it began exporting the
first Cuban coffee to the U.S. market in half a century. Under
new U.S. regulations that permitted the import of some products
from the private sector, debut supplies of Cafecito de Cuba
capsules to sold out almost immediately, thanks to limited sources
CMC aims to change that. Over the next five years, it plans
to invest $5.5 million in local production, including the purchase
of equipment, plants, and nurseries. While AL provides technical
agricultural support to 2,000 farmers and manages the local processing
plants, CMC will advertise and sell the green beans, splitting
the proceeds. For Oppenheim, this involves distinguishing
Guantánamo’s coffee by each microregion, altitude, and variety,
characteristics that don’t presently exist for the global consumer.
“At the moment, the state export agency (Cubaexport),
which exports all Cuban coffee, tends to bulk the coffee up,”
Oppenheim told Cuba Trade. “It only has about four grades. It’s
really a bulk product only sold by the container.”
Revitalizing a Niche Industry
In the high mountain ranges of Guantánamo province, conditions
are particularly favorable for cultivating specialty grade
coffee. Aided in part by winds coming off the Caribbean sea,
the beans are able to slow-ripen at much lower altitudes than in
hotter countries such as Brazil, Panama, and Colombia, resulting
in a higher complexity of flavor.
“Consumers don’t really care where [sugar] comes from,” says
William Messina, an agricultural economist at the University of
Florida, “whereas Cuban coffee could command a real niche in
global markets with the help of foreign investment.”
UNESCO recognized the historic significance of Cuba’s
southeastern coffee region in 2000, when it designated the
remains of 171 coffee plantations as a World Heritage Site.
Strewn throughout the provinces of Guantánamo and Santiago
de Cuba, and occupying some 200,000 acres, these decaying 19th
century plantations are monuments to an era when Cuba’s coffee
economy flourished. They owed their success in large part to new
agricultural methods imported by French exiles from present-day
Haiti (then known as Saint-Domingue) after its revolution broke
out in 1791. Aided by an increasing supply of slave labor, Cuban
coffee production eventually surpassed sugar production. While
sugar later became Cuba’s preeminent export, in the years leading
up to the 1959 Revolution the country was exporting more than
20,000 metric tons of coffee a year––most of which was grown in
the southeastern provinces. These days, however, coffee production
lies in the hands of small family farmers, and has fallen to 24
percent of its pre-revolutionary volume.
“One of the reasons is the farmers haven’t been incentivized
with price support, or with inputs, and it has not been worth
their while growing coffee,” explained Philip Oppenheim. “You
go up into the Guantánamo mountains and there are thousands
of farmers. Mostly, they’ve got a pig, they’ve got a mango tree,
and if they grow coffee at all, they’re no longer specialist farmers
like they used to be. They’re subsistence farmers, and the coffee’s
their cash crop. So, two kilos of coffee a year to the [government]
buying authority, and that’s it.”
In recent years, the Cuban government has raised the price
of coffee in an attempt to stimulate production, and farmers now
get slightly more than the average world price, depending on the
grade. As part of the deal with CMC, AL is authorized to pay
out quality bonuses to farmers; Oppenheim says his company is
pushing for its Cuban counterpart to be given complete flexibility
over what they pay farmers in the future.
The agreement for CMC’s Guantánamo project—which
is not a joint venture, but a ‘contract of administration’ allegedly
designed to make it easier for foreign businesses to work in
Cuba—took nearly five years of negotiating and numerous trips
to the island. The contract falls under a new category introduced
in Cuba’s 2014 Foreign Investment Act (Law 118) that makes it
easier to set up than a joint venture. In exchange for the invest-
Coffee workers in the microregion of Yateras
ment and product marketing, CMC gets rights to the coffee from
these micro-regions for up to ten years.
Despite the success of the venture so far, Oppenheim warns
that businesses with a romantic view of Cuba can easily come to
grief. “I know people think it’s the promised land, but it’s quite a
difficult place to do business,” he says. “The Cubans have got to
get to know you very well before they’ll do anything with you.
It’s very personally based. They want to be sure they can trust you
and work with you.”
Another factor that make deals so time-consuming is the
still-sensitive nature of foreign agricultural investment in Cuba,
and the fact that CMC is operating in such a politically charged
region—demonstrated by the recent rejection of TechnoServe, the
U.S. NGO that had originally planned to work on the project.
Washington-based TechnoServe was the first to approach
CMC about working with Nespresso, announcing in July that
the NGO would be working alongside its long-time partner to
provide on-the-ground support to Guantánamo coffee farmers.
But as Cuban officials became aware of TechnoServe’s involvement
later in the year, “the guys in Guantánamo made very clear
to us they did not want an American NGO” in their backyard,
said Oppenheim. “They like Nespresso, no problem, but they
won’t work with an American NGO.”
Nespresso told Cuba Trade that it is moving forward with
discussions on how to best work with Cuban farmers, adding that
“as a global partner among others, TechnoServe is a valued member
of our team and will continue to play a role in this endeavor.”
A Long Term Investment
Because it takes three years for coffee plants to begin
producing––not to mention the need for continual replanting––
coffee is not a short-term investment. Still, thanks to a recent increase
in production, CMC will be selling Guantánamo’s arabica
beans on the world market as soon as this year, Oppenheim told
Cuba Trade. Now that negotiations with the Cuban government
have concluded, the project should take off by late 2017. CMC’s
next task will be to raise additional capital—either through
crowdfunding or concessional loans from Finnish, Danish, or
“The banks are still very difficult,” said Oppenheim, referring
to U.S. regulations that prohibit American financial institutions
from corresponding with Cuban banks. “There is no perceptible
change yet in the banking system in response to Obama. A lot of
people now use Canadian or Estonian banks.” Even so, the long
arm of the U.S. Treasury can block transfers, even if not in dollars
and outside the United States, for many months.
With so much U.S and worldwide demand, however, the
long wait to export coveted Cuban coffee is apparently beginning
to come to an end. H
64 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
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For more than a century, Tampa—Florida’s “Cigar City”—has been
intimately linked to Cuba. It was here that José Martí planned Cuba’s
war of independence from Spain. Even the famous Cuban Sandwich
was invented here. Today, the connection lives on in historic Ybor City,
Tampa’s Cigar industry and a mutli-generational Cuban population.
68 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
By Doreen Hemlock
Tampa cigar workers at the turn of the
century, listening to their "lector" reading
from newspapers and books.
WITH U.S.–CUBA TRADE
TAMPA IS LEVERAGING ITS
DEEP HISTORIC LINK TO
THE ISLAND NATION
As U.S. regions jockey for business and other links with
Cuba, the Tampa Bay region has one big advantage on its
side: history. No place in the United States shares as long
and rich a historical connection to the island as Tampa Bay.
The western Florida region is where, nearly 500 years ago,
the first Spanish explorer from Cuba came ashore to check out
North America. It’s where cigarmakers from Cuba started setting
up factories in the 1880s, attracting Cuban workers and earning
Tampa the nickname “Cigar Capital of the World.”
It’s where Cuban independence leader José Martí repeatedly
visited in the 1890s seeking funds and support to liberate his
homeland from Spain. And it’s where Teddy Roosevelt and his
Rough Riders cavalry kept their headquarters before heading off
to Cuba during the Spanish-American War of 1898.
Many in Tampa Bay want to build on that legacy now that
the United States and Cuba have restored diplomatic ties after
a 54-year break. With the U.S. embargo limiting most business
with the island, they’re forging wide-ranging links, from marine
70 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
IN MARTÍ'S FOOTSTEPS
Cuba’s Icon of Independence Lives
on in Tampa
To trace the steps of Cuban independence leader Jose Marti
in Tampa, start by downloading an app.
A smartphone app called Florida Stories features a guide
that takes Tampa visitors along the José Martí Trail. The tour
makes an initial nine stops in Ybor City that the Cuban patriot
visited in the 1890s, including former cigar factories where he
gave rousing speeches to Cuban workers to raise money for
the war of independence from Spain. It also highlights the spot
where Marti recovered after Spanish agents poisoned his drink,
trying to kill him.
The guide to the José Martí Trail was developed as a joint
project between the Florida Humanities Council, the Ybor City
Chamber of Commerce, and the Visit Tampa Bay tourism group.
It’s part of the Humanities Council’s “Florida Stories” app that
also offers interactive walking tours in other areas of the state.
The idea for Tampa is to drive cultural tourism, encouraging
longer stays for both visiting Cubans and for Americans before
or after a visit to the island nation.
The tour notes that Martí “combined the intellectual,
organizational and oratorical talents of George Washington,
Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln.” The writer and activist
died in battle in eastern Cuba in 1895, fighting Spanish
troops in the independence war. He was only 42.
Scholars say Martí gave instructions on when to start that
war. The message came in a cigar rolled in west Tampa. In all,
Martí he spent more than 50 days in Tampa Bay on at least 20
visits between 1891 and 1894.
José Martí park
Trolleys of The Teco Line Streetcar System in historic Ybor City
science to the arts and sports. Indeed, it was a Tampa Bay Rays
game against Cuba’s national baseball team that Presidents Barack
Obama and Raúl Castro watched in Havana last spring during
the first visit to Cuba by a sitting U.S. president in 88 years.
Tampa Bay has much to offer Cuba. The four-county region
has the second-highest economic output of any metro area in
Florida, trailing only after Greater Miami. Much of its activity
comes from Hillsborough County, home to the city of Tampa
and about half of the region’s three million residents.
In addition, Tampa hosts Florida’s second largest Cuban-
American community, about 100,000 people. It's older than
Miami’s one million-strong group, with many residents descended
from cigarworkers who arrived a century ago. Tampa’s
Cubans tend to be more open to engagement than Miami’s, with
ideologues considered less of an obstacle to building ties with the
“Miami is Cuba. Here, we’re Tampa,” joked Roberto Galban,
32, serving a Cuban-style coffee at a cigar shop in Tampa’s
Florida Stories is a free download on the App Store and Google Play.
Users must install the “José Martí Trail” within the app.
DEEP SEA COOPERATION
How scientists from Tampa and Cuba
are working together to save the reefs
When it comes to the ocean, coral reefs, sea turtles, and
other marine life know no borders.
That’s why the Florida Aquarium in Tampa and the National
Aquarium of Cuba have agreed to cooperate on research affecting
their shared marine environment.
The two groups signed a memorandum of understanding
for collaboration in August 2015 and have been focusing since
then on corals—from different angles.
Florida has been suffering major losses of its coral reefs,
partly from runoff of chemicals and other pollutants from developed
land. Cuba in contrast has some of the world’s most
From Tampa, scientists have been working on ways to help
patchy and distant corals reproduce in the ocean. They’ve also
been creating on-land sites to grow genetically diverse adults
from small fragments of coral and, ultimately, restore coral
populations in protected environments. The coral team at
Florida Aquarium shares that research with their Cuban counterparts,
even starting an underwater nursery off Cuba’s west
coast at Guanahacabibes National Park, one of Cuba’s many
marine protected areas.
“We get to help them, but we learn from them what a
healthy reef looks like, so we can build toward that,” said Margo
McKnight, Florida Aquarium’s senior vice president of conservation,
science and research. She also arranged for Cuban scientists
to come to Florida to work on coral projects.
The Florida Aquarium operates with an annual budget of
about $20 million. It now is planning a three-year, $500,000
program with Cuba, McKnight said, including building a coral
greenhouse in Havana similar to one operating south of Tampa,
the "ark" in Apollo Beach.
Cuban and Florida Aquarium scientists
historic Ybor City neighborhood. He left Cuba 20 years ago and
grew up in Tampa Bay, learning English and ignoring Cuban
politics. “When I got here, no one really spoke Spanish.”
Largely because of its Cuban-American community, Tampa
was among the first U.S. cities outside Miami to get charter
flights to Cuba. Charters from Tampa International Airport
began in 2011, and when U.S. airlines were allowed scheduled
service last year, Southwest Airlines began flying Tampa-Havana
daily in December. Havana Air also started a new route to Cuba
from Tampa last year.
“Scheduled service is a big deal, because it’s cheaper, easier to
buy tickets, and easier to plan around than charters,” said airport
spokeswoman Emily Nipps. “We’re hoping Southwest’s service
will be the start of a successful route that can grow over time.”
For now, with U.S. tourism to Cuba banned under the embargo,
Tampa-Cuba air traffic remains small, with some 22,000
passengers in 2012 rising to 34,000-plus in the first 10 months of
2016. But its potential is big. Cuba business already brings more
than $1 million in annual revenue to the airport, said Nipps.
Port Tampa Bay also sees opportunity in travel. The port’s
first cruises to Cuba in more than half a century are set to launch
this spring. Royal Caribbean will begin sailing to Havana in April
with its 1,840-passenger Empress of the Seas vessel. The Empress
is offering four-, five- and six-night trips that also include stops
in Key West or on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, providing Americans
a chance to learn about Cuba and share with its residents in
people-to-people exchanges. Carnival also begins sailing out of
Tampa starting in June.
In a free-trade, post-embargo scenario,
Tampa is Cuba-ready
Chief commercial officer, Port of Tampa
The Tampa seaport, Florida’s largest by acreage, already
handles cargo bound for Cuba under waivers to the embargo
that allow sales of U.S. agricultural products. Volume is still
relatively small, however. In the past five years, the seaport has
sent about 70,000 tons of freight to Cuba, mostly fertilizer—not
even 1 percent of its total cargo volume, said Raul Alfonso, the
port’s Cuba-born chief commercial officer who grew up in South
“In a free-trade, post-embargo scenario, Tampa is Cubaready,”
said Alfonso, touting the port as Florida’s closest in
nautical miles to the Cuban mega-port of Mariel (17-hours away
in transit time). He sees potential to export to Cuba everything
from fresh foods to cement—and to import goods transshipped
through Mariel and destined for Central Florida’s fast-growing
Interstate 4 corridor region. While South Florida ports focus
more on containerized cargo and likely will lure more of that
Cuban business, “no one single port is going to do it all,” Alfonso
told Cuba Trade. “We’re all trying to prepare for post-embargo
72 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
Departures from Miami, Tampa and Key West.
Above: Santiago Corrada, president and CEO of Visit Tampa
Right: Statue of Vicente Marinez Ybor
Cuba.” In tourism, Tampa sees opportunity now in attracting
visitors before and after their Cuba trips, “building on the historic
and cultural ties between Cuba and Tampa,” said Santiago
Corrada, president and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay, the destination
marketer for Hillsborough County. Tampa Bay has been breaking
tourism records for the past four years. In 2016, it hosted
almost 22 million overnight visitors, nearly 19 million airport
passengers, and 814,000 cruise passengers, said Corrada, also a
As flights and cruises to Cuba expand, Tampa can lure more
visitors to its Cuba-related locales—especially Ybor City, the area
developed by Vicente Martinez-Ybor and fellow cigarmakers
from Cuba. Today the neighborhood is designated a National
Historic Landmark District, featuring century-old brick factories
and shops, restored wooden worker homes, and a captivating
local history museum.
In Ybor City, travelers can visit Cuba without a passport.
That’s because the park honoring Cuban independence leader
José Martí has been deeded to Cuba since the 1950s. It is the
rarest of places: property in the United States owned by a foreign
government that does not have an embassy or consulate on it. The
park sits on land where Martí often stayed in the 1890s at the
home of his friends, the Pedrosos.
Short-term, some Tampa entrepreneurs have specific busi-
74 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
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THE ICONIC 'SANDWICH CUBANA'
One of Tampa’s contributions to
Cuban lore is gustatory
Odelma Matos, master cigar roller at La Faraona Cigars
ness plans for Cuba, including agro-businessman Mike Mauricio.
The grandson of Cubans who came to work in Tampa’s cigar
industry a century ago, Mauricio began visiting Cuba in the
early 1990s. After Washington allowed food sales to the island
in 2000, his Florida Produce company was among the first U.S.
businesses authorized to sell there, exporting items from raisins
to fresh pears and dehydrated coconut.
Now, Mauricio wants to open a food distribution center
in Cuba, either in the Havana area or at the Port of Mariel. He
envisions a warehouse spanning at least 50,000 square feet that
would store dry goods and refrigerated foods from the United
States and beyond. The warehouse could be a joint-venture with
the Cuban government. He’s awaiting word from Cuban authorities
on the proposal.
“I’ve never agreed with the U.S. embargo, because it’s
devastated the Cuban people,” said Mauricio, who dreams of a
time when Tampa will be a key trading partner with the land of
his ancestors, as it had been before Cuba’s 1959 Revolution and
before Washington’s 1960s embargo.
Of course, open trade with Cuba could bring competition
for Tampa, especially for its cigarmakers. But Odelma Matos,
a master cigar-roller who left Cuba in 2010 and now owns the
small Ybor City shop La Faraona Cigars or Pharaoh Cigars, is
In Cuba, folks love ham and cheese sandwiches. But the ‘Cuban
Sandwich’ popular across the United States—the one filled with
roast pork, ham, cheese, pickles, and other fixings—that one
comes from Tampa. It reflects the immigrant groups that settled
in cigar-producing Ybor City more than a century ago.
The Tampa City Council is so proud of the local creation
that in 2012 it designated the “Historic Tampa Cuban” as the
city’s signature sandwich. The historic version uses Cuban
bread scored with the leaf of a palm frond.
The story goes that the sandwich, first called the “Mixto,”
emerged in the 1890s as lunch fare for cigar workers. It was
filling enough to keep workers satisfied but not too heavy to
make them drowsy. And it needed no refrigeration. Its ingredients
evolved as different nationalities came to Ybor City.
“The Spanish brought the fine ham, the Sicilians the Genoa
salami, the Cubans the Mojo marinated roast pork, the Germans
and Jews the swiss cheese, pickle and mustard. Put it all
together in between sliced freshly baked Tampa Cuban bread
from La Segunda Central Bakery, and life is great,” according to
Ybor’s Columbia Restaurant, billed as the oldest continuously-operated
eatery in Florida and open since 1905.
The Columbia uses the 1915 sandwich recipe from Casimiro
Hernandez Sr., the Cuban immigrant who helped develop
the Ybor City eatery that now seats 1,700 people in 15 dining
rooms. Its recipe keeps the same proportions of meat and the
same layering of ingredients “on Cuban bread brushed with
butter on top and pressed to a crispy finish,” according to the
Hernandez/Gonzmart family, which still owns the iconic Ybor
restaurant and five smaller Columbia locales serving Cuban
and Spanish cuisine in Florida.
Outside Tampa, many Cuban sandwiches come without
the salami, but Tampa locals call that version incomplete: Why,
they ask, would you leave out the contribution of Italian immigrants
in the mix?
Tampa's version of the Cuban sandwich
76 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
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“When Cuban cigars become available, there’ll be demand.
It’s something you weren’t able to get, so you’ll want it,” said
Matos from her popular storefront. “If I could sell cigars from
Cuba, I would.”
READY TO COMPETE
Many Ybor City leaders figure the cigar market is big enough
for Tampa’s limited production to thrive alongside new imports
from the island. “Initially, it might hurt—but not that bad or for
that long,” said Larry Wilder, former chairman of the Ybor City
Chamber of Commerce, who helped organize a Chamber trip
to Cuba in 2015. “The novelty will wear off fast, because people
will realize, ‘Hey, they have good cigars, but we have good cigars
Tampa Bay also expects to compete with other U.S. areas for
a future Cuban consulate, and St. Petersburg hopes to host that
office. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman visited Cuba in August
2015 to build relations and returned there in March 2016 to
attend the game by the Rays, who hail from St. Pete. He recently
welcomed a Cuban cultural delegation and a Cuban art exhibit
to his Pinellas County city, which is known for its Salvador Dalí
museum and vibrant art scene.
Part of Kriseman’s pitch for a Cuban consulate is that the
first Spaniard to explore North America from Cuba, Panfilo de
Narvaez, landed in what is now St. Pete nearly five centuries
ago in 1528. Kriseman also sees potential to work with Cuba’s
highly educated workforce in areas including the life sciences, an
economic driver in St. Pete and one of the island’s most promising
industries. “We share a lot in common––whether it’s arts and
culture, medicine, or the fact that we’re both coastal communities
and as such, have to deal with climate change, sea-level rise and
the risk of oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Kriseman. For
now, he hopes St. Pete can help restore a Martin Luther King
monument in Havana.
Art is also forging Cuba links at the downtown Tampa Museum
of Art, housed in a new $33 million, award-winning building
since 2010. The riverfront museum this winter season hosted
its first exhibit of contemporary Cuban art, displaying some 40
works by two dozen artists. It dedicated its annual gala held last
November to a Havana-Tampa theme for the first time.
The educational community has also been forging links with
Cuba. The University of Tampa was selected as one of 12 U.S.
schools to participate in the 2015 International Academic Partnership
Program with Cuba, and now offers several Education
Abroad programs in Havana. Stetson University’s College of Law
offers a Spring Break study abroad program in Cuba.
Driving his gleaming 1929 Model A Ford through Ybor
City on a history tour, professor Wallace Reyes takes heart in the
renewed ties with Cuba. He notes Tampa even came up in talks
restoring U.S.-Cuba diplomatic ties. That’s because Cuba owed
money for maintenance of the Martí park during the Cold War
years. Havana is now making payments to maintain its land in
the Tampa area once dubbed Cuba Town—yet another symbol of
Greater Tampa’s deep ties with the island nation. H
The novelty will wear off fast, because
people will realize, ‘Hey, they [Cuba]
have good cigars, but we have good
cigars as well
Former chairman of the Ybor
City Chamber of Commerce
78 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
The historic Colombia restaurant in Ybor City
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Tampa Bay region and interested in exporting or abroad and looking to expand to the U.S. market,
the Tampa Hillsborough EDC is your one-stop resource connection. From developing an export
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locate or grow your international business. Ready to get started? Give us a call.
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Development, at 813-518-2654
or send an email to:
NICKEL, OIL, AND
A REPORT ON THE MAIN SECTORS
FOR INVESTMENT IN CUBA
By Emilio Morales
Oil refinery in Havana, Cuba
Of all the sectors of the Cuban economy in search of foreign
direct investment, none surpass energy and mining.
Cuba’s foreign investment portfolio for 2016-17, presented
at last fall’s Havana International Fair by Cuban Foreign
Trade Minister Rodrigo Malmierca, contained 123 investment
projects in energy and mining. This represented nearly a third
of the total, followed closely by tourism (114 projects) and way
ahead of food (76), biotechnology and health (18), industry (16),
construction (10), and transportation (10).
Unquestionably, Cuba’s economic development depends
Source: Portfolio of foreign investment opportunities of the Ministry of Foreign
Trade and Foreign Investment 2016-2017.
Unión Cuba-Petróleo (CUPET). CUPET is the state organization
responsible for supplying the domestic market with fuels and lubricants,
maximizing the use of domestic fuels, advanced technologies, and highly
qualified human resources. CUPET is a vertically integrated entity,
comprised of 41 enterprises, 36 domestic and 5 mixed. It is authorized
to conduct all upstream as well as downstream operations using its own
resources or in association with foreign enterprises.
UNION ELECTRICA (UNE). The Electric Union is responsible
for meeting the electricity needs of its clients. To do this it generates,
transmits, distributes, and commercializes electricity to about 2.6 million
clients. About 95% of the nation has access to electricity. UNE controls
3,267 MW of installed generating capacity from 17 thermoelectric
plants situated throughout the country. It also controls the generation
and distribution grids from power plants to consumers.
CUBANIQUEL. CUBANIQUEL is responsible for the extraction and
processing of nickel and cobalt. This managerial group has more than 50
years of experience in nickel mining and processing. It has production
capacity of 70,000 tons per annum of nickel metal in three plants. Cuba
has the second largest nickel and cobalt reserves in the world (about
26%), located in the Eastern region of the country, with proven reserves
of 800 million tons and probable reserves of 2,000 million tons.
heavily on investment in the energy sector. Without a modern
and efficient energy system, all other strategic sectors of the
island’s economy will suffer—which is why the Ministry of Energy
and Mines has more projects in the latest investment plan
than any other Cuban state entity.
That ministry controls three strategic entities: The Electrical
Union (UNE); Cubaniquel; and the Cuban Petroleum
Union (CUPET). All three hope to attract the right partners to
develop the 123 projects identified by the Cuban government
for generating electricity, producing nickel, and extracting and
processing oil and gas.
Yet bringing such ambitious plans to fruition is a real
challenge, given the current difficult scenario: rapidly shrinking
shipments from Venezuela; falling world oil prices; declining
nickel production and the abrupt collapse in world nickel prices;
and rapidly growing consumption of electricity, prompted by an
expanding private sector and tourism.
All this has taxed Cuba’s antiquated energy grid, which
must be upgraded and dramatically expanded to increase power
generating capacity. Here’s a look at key projects now underway:
The nickel industry is going through a tough period. In the face
of falling world nickel prices, investment has shriveled up at Moa
Nickel SA, a 50-50 venture between Canada’s Sherritt International
and Cubaniquel that’s been a financial bonanza since its
establishment in 1994. It now owns the Moa extraction, processing
and smelting operation, a refinery located in the Canadian
province of Alberta, and an international marketing company.
Statistics on nickel production and export reflect current
difficulties. Beginning in 2000, nickel production began climbing
steadily, exceeding 75,000 tons in 2005.
In 2007, nickel export revenues surged past $2 billion.
With world prices at $50,000 a ton, the nickel industry became
Cuba’s main source of export revenue, surpassing both sugar
and tourism. This led to plans for two new nickel refineries—one
in partnership with Venezuela (worth $700 million) and another
with China (worth $500 million).
However, by 2010 both production and prices had fallen,
sharply cutting into Cuba’s nickel export revenues. Consequently,
neither investment materialized. In 2015, Cuban nickel
exports came to only $521 million, a 75 percent drop from 2007
Cuba remains one of the world’s largest nickel producers
and exporters. It also supplies 10 percent of the world’s cobalt.
Nickel is essential in the production of stainless steel and other
corrosion-resistant alloys, such as those used in mobile phones,
batteries, automobiles, engines, and aircraft turbines.
Currently, Cuba has two refineries which must be upgraded
in order to reduce production costs to compensate for the decline
in nickel prices. Sherritt recently invested in a plant to produce
sulfuric acid—a key input in nickel processing—with the aim of
reducing production costs by 12 to 15 percent.
Nickel prices have fallen mainly because of lower demand
from China, the world’s top nickel consumer, and rising use of
82 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
Cuban nickel production, 1975-2015
Cuban nickel production, 1975-2015
Cuban nickel production, (thousand 1975-2015 tons) (thousand tons)
Pedro Soto Alba nickel refinery in Moa is 50% owned by Sherritt International
cheaper materials in steel alloys. Given this scenario, no major investments
will materialize in this sector until world nickel prices
recover enough to justify them. If nickel prices remain low, Cuba
should try to reduce costs rather than boost production.
OIL AND GAS PRODUCTION
Value Value of Cuban of Cuban exports of nickel (millions usd), usd), 2004-2015 2004-2015
Value of Cuban exports of nickel (millions usd), 2004-2015
1,100.0 1068 994 1011
1,100.0 994 1011
711 742 742 521
0.0 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Source: Oficina Nacional de Estadística e Información (ONEI).
Source: Oficina Nacional de Estadística Información (ONEI).
Oil and gas account for 87 of the 123 energy and mining projects
in Cuba’s current investment portfolio. In the last six years,
Cuba’s annual oil production has remained constant at around
2.97 million metric tons. During this same period, gas extraction
has risen by 16 percent; the Energas joint venture uses this gas
to generate more than 1,875 GWh of electricity.
Cuba extracts only 5 percent of its oil, according to government
authorities, because CUPET lacks the technology for
secondary recovery, which requires substantial investment. At
present, CUPET extracts about 80 percent of Cuba’s oil production;
Sherritt extracts the remaining 20 percent. Production
comes mostly from the offshore fields of Puerto Escondido
and Boca Jaruco, using directional drilling from onshore in the
vicinity of Matanzas.
Geologically, Cuba is framed on the south by the Caribbean
volcanic arc and on the north by the North American platform.
Cuba’s oil fields are located in an area between Havana and
Matanzas, where the largest oil reservoir has been found, with
reserves estimated at six billion barrels. According to Cuban
government sources, nearly all of Cuba’s land mass has potential
for oil production, as do offshore and deepwater areas.
Cuba has dozens of petroleum deposits, most of them
consisting of very heavy oil, although some medium, light, and
extra-light deposits have also been discovered. Most are offshore,
Natural gas extraction (MM m 3 ), 2004-2015
Natural gas extraction (MM m 3 ), 2004-2015
Natural gas extraction (MM m3), 2004-2015
Oil Oil extraction (Mt), 2004-2014
Oil extraction (Mt), 2004-2014
2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Source: Oficina Nacional de Estadística e Información (ONE
Source: Oficina Nacional de Estadística e Información (ONEI).
Source: Oficina Nacional de Estadística e Información (ONE
in coastal areas, and are exploited using directional drilling. A
2004 study by the U.S. Geological Service estimated the potential
of Cuba’s northern basin at 4.6 billion barrels of oil and
9.8 billion cubic feet of natural gas. Cuban scientists have made
higher, but perhaps less reliable, estimates of up to 20 billion
barrels of oil.
In January 2012, Spain’s Repsol-YPF became the first multinational
oil company to explore in deepwater north of Havana,
leasing the Chinese-built Scarabeo 9 drilling platform from Italy’s
ENI. Yet the results were not encouraging, and Repsol-YPF
soon ended drilling operations.
Subsequently, Scarabeo 9 made two other drilling efforts on
behalf of Malaysia’s Petronas and Venezuela’s PDVSA, but the
platform left Cuba without finding the hoped-for oil deposits.
Russia’s Zarubezhneft drilled a fourth exploratory well using the
semi-submersible drilling platform Songa Mercur—owned by
Norway’s Songa Offshore—but this effort also came up dry.
In recent years, Cuba has seen significant activity in renewable
energy, driven above all by its need to phase out the island’s
dependence on fossil fuels to generate electricity.
Although Cuba produces some four million tons of oil and
gas per year—mostly used for power generation—this only covers
half the country’s consumption. That’s why the electric grid still
depends on subsidized Venezuelan crude. These supplies, which
peaked at 125,000 barrels a day, fell to 45,000-50,000 barrels a
84 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
Solar panels installed at a Cuban farmstead
day last year, prompting the Cienfuegos refinery to close.
Given this new reality, the government has accelerated investments
in renewable energy. Its goal: to produce 24 percent of
Cuba’s electricity from “clean” sources by 2030. To this end, the
government has included $3 billion worth of renewable energy
projects in its investment portfolio. Together, these would add
2.1 gigawatts of capacity from wind, solar, biogas, and biomass
Unión Eléctrica alone plans 23 renewable energy projects;
the most important are in wind energy and solar parks. The government
recently contracted Spain’s Gamesa to build seven wind
farms in eastern Cuba with total generating power of 750 MW.
That’s in addition to Cuba’s four existing wind parks: two in
Gibara (Holguín province, in the east); one in Turiguanó (Ciego
de Avila province, in central Cuba) and one at Los Canarreos
(on Isla de la Juventud, in the west).
Solar energy is another government priority. In Cuba, solar
radiation averages about 5 kWh per square meter per day (1,825
kWh per square meter per year)—much higher than in European
countries that rely on solar energy.
According to Cuban experts, 100 square kilometers of networked
photovoltaic systems could generate 15,000 GWh/year
of electricity—an amount now generated by conventional fuels.
Other studies suggest that the solar radiation Cuba receives in
one day is equivalent to the oil Cuba consumes in five years.
Cuba’s strategy is to have solar provide 400 MW of power
by 2020. The country currently has 21 solar generating plants
connected to the national grid; together they generate 34.8
MW. Another 2.4 MW plant is in the process of synchronization,
and eight more facilities with a combined generating
capacity of 15 MW are under construction.
Recently, the Abu Dhabi Development Fund (ADFD)
loaned Cuba $15 million under favorable terms to develop four
10-MW solar power plants using photovoltaic silicon panels.
The plants are slated for the provinces of Matanzas, Santa Clara,
Camagüey and Sancti Spíritus.
Of the three investment areas under the jurisdiction of the Ministry
of Energy and Mines, the most attractive are clearly oil and
gas production, and electricity generated from renewables.
For these sectors to expand, however, foreign investment
is essential. To facilitate that, the Cuban government will
allow investments in the energy sector to be 100 percent foreign-owned—a
development that would have been unthinkable
20 years ago.
Regarding oil and gas, projects related to secondary
extraction methods are especially attractive. Similarly lucrative
are facilities that use co-produced gas to generate electricity,
given their low production costs and high efficiency in power
generation. With respect to renewable energy, solar seems to be
the most promising, given the high levels of solar radiation that
blanket Cuba uniformly and throughout the year. H
Emilio Morales is CEO of the Havana Consulting Group.
A Talk with
Interview by Michael Deibert
Photos by Bahare Khodabande
Born in Santiago de Cuba in 1950, 66-year-old sculptor Alberto
Lescay graduated from Cuba’s renowned Escuela Nacional
de Arte (now known as the Instituto Superior de Arte)
in Havana. As part of the first generation of Cuban artists
to grow into adulthood after the 1959 Revolution, Lescay’s
career has, in many ways, mirrored the successes and struggles
of Cuba’s creative community. A leader of the team that created
the iconic monument of Cuban independence hero Antonio
Maceo Grajales (the so-called ‘Bronze Titan’) that dominates
Santiago’s Plaza de la Revolución, Lescay famously
declined the prize money for winning that project. Instead
he asked then-Cuban leader Fidel Castro to help him found
an arts foundation in his native city. That led to the creation
of the Caguayo Fundación para las Artes Monumentales y
Aplicadas, a non-governmental, non-profit cultural institution
consisting of both an exhibition space in Santiago (the
Galería René Valdés Cedeño) and a workshop dedicated to
creating large sculptural projects. During a recent visit to
Santiago de Cuba, Cuba Trade talked with Lescay about
his life, his work, and the rewards and challenges of being a
working artist in Cuba.
Continued on page 89
86 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
From a point of view of the conditions, of the environment,
the spiritual environment––which is the motivation, which
is the fundamental thing that an artist has to have––here
[in Cuba] is the best place to be an artist.
CT: Can you explain a little about your
AL: I was nine years old when the Revolution
occurred. When I opened my eyes
to think and to know that I was a human
being, a new life had begun in Cuba. And
one of the new things that happened to
me was that I knew that I had an aptitude
for the arts. I was able to enter a professional
art school for thirteen years and I
discovered the art world…[And] I never
left, because I realized that it was a paradise,
with all its intricacies. That’s where I
can feel, studying painting and sculpting.
CT: Was this in Havana or in Santiago
AL: I graduated from the art academy
here in Santiago, and then I worked a few
months before I went on to graduate from
the Escuela Nacional de Arte in Havana.
I was then selected to go to study in the
Soviet Union and spent six years in the
Academy of Leningrad [present-day St.
CT: When exactly?
AL: From 1973 to 1979, and upon my
return, I decided to live in Santiago. The
most important project for me in that
era, in 1982, was the competition for the
Antonio Maceo monument. [Note: Maceo
was born in Santiago and was killed near
Havana in 1896 during Cuba’s War of
Independence from Spain.] We built an
interdisciplinary team from sectors of engineering,
architecture, and design and we
won the contest. We had the honor and
the right to conduct that work for over 9
years… It was a very complicated work,
very large in theory, almost unrealizable.
But Antonio Maceo was the Bronze Titan
and he had to be cast in bronze.
CT: And how did the project unfold?
AL: The first thing I did was to investigate
the history of the attempts to make
a Maceo monument, and it was very
interesting. [They started] practically as
soon as he died, since he was killed in the
war… It was a debt, really, that Santiago
de Cuba had with Maceo. And that debt
was resolved by Fidel and Raúl [Castro]
on the occasion of the Fourth Communist
Party Congress in Santiago. I remember
explaining to Fidel that by holding the
Congress here it was a pretext for Santiago
to have some of the things it lacked as
a city: A theater, an airport with the possibility
of receiving international flights,
and a hotel—a three-star hotel—that Santiago
did not have. And it lacked a great
monument to Antonio Maceo, made by a
CT: And how about the sculpture
AL: When I came up with the idea of
creating an institution to develop the
applied arts, the monumental arts, with
the resources that remained from the
experience (of creating the monument), I
wrote a letter (to Fidel Castro) saying that
I wanted to develop this foundation. And
he approved it. The commitment was that
I was going to contribute knowledge and
provide solutions to the country, and I was
not going to ask for anything material…
This institution is celebrating its 20th
anniversary, and the workshop itself, where
the work is done, is almost thirty years old
and is working as a unique, professional
foundry in Cuba. We do work not only for
Cuba, but for other countries as well. Even
in the United States our works are there.
CT: Is it possible to talk a little about
changes with Cuban artists now that we
have this opening between the U.S. and
AL: The situation is the same… The
professional artists in Cuba often live and
paint with the materials we bring back
when we travel, and that comes with all
the inconvenience that you know: The
weight, the payment, everything. The
drawbacks in this regard are very large.
88 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
There is a Cuban entity that is an importer
[of these materials] and can do it, but
imagine, they are materials brought from
China, and from other places, not with
efficiency or the proper quality. Lack of
materials is a problem, really.
CT: What do you think the future is for
artists here in Cuba?
AL: I believe that the artist, wherever he
is, has to do his work. What is needed here
are the materials. From the point of view
of the conditions, of the environment, of
the spiritual environment—which is the
motivation and fundamental thing one
must have as an artist—here [in Cuba]
is the best place to be. Though there are
sometimes hardships, I have never accepted
the idea of not working one day because
I do not have the right color of paint, or
because I do not have a specific material.
I have always said to my son “never
justify the idea of not working for lack of
material,” because we are surrounded by
materials. I think, in sum, that it has been
more positive than negative. Because the
creativity one sees in Cuban art is rare. It
has been very varied and very inventive,
producing many different results. H
Cuban independence hero Antonio Maceo Grajales
(the so-called ‘Bronze Titan’)
90 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
Though Hurricane Ike battered Gibara nearly a decade ago,
the town—founded in 1817—has recovered splendidly and
much of its old colonial core remains intact.
A VISIT TO CUBA'S VILLA BLANCA
by Michael Deibert
Photos by Bahare Khodabande
Just outside of the Sol y Mar is a statue of rebel leader Camilo Cienfuegos
Nestled into the corner of a picturesque bay in the
northern extreme of Cuba’s Holguín province, the town
of Gibara seduces visitors in a way that only certain
out-of-the-way Caribbean gems can. Isolated and bubbling with
a unique cultural mix—often a point of reference in Cuba’s music
for a sort of idealized past—Gibara is accessible via a quick jaunt
of just under an hour from Holguín’s Frank País Airport (which
largely caters to the hedonistic resorts in nearby Guardalavaca).
As visitors ride in battered taxis along the undulating farmland
of northeastern Cuba—the sometimes smiling, sometimes
somber visages of revolutionary “martyrs” displayed on billboards
along the road—the glistening Caribbean eventually comes
into view, its surface criss-crossed by small fishing vessels. A
huge bandshell marked by the outline of a swordfish serves as
a greeting to Gibara, a sign that fishing looms large in the local
Seafaring alone, though, cannot account for Gibara’s distinctive
culture and the effect it has on those who visit. From time
to time these have included itinerant celebrity travelers such as
the famous American dancer Isadora Duncan, said to have spent
time here in 1916.
Duncan’s visit, as a dancer, would be apt today; the sound
of music—sinuous, ebullient and profoundly Cuban—echoes
through Gibara’s narrow winding streets. In a semi-derelict building,
the band Villa Blanca is practicing, attracting a small group of
locals and, on a nearby wall, a pair of seemingly interested cats.
“We play traditional Cuban music,” says René Serrano, 32,
the guitarist and leader of Villa Blanca whose name—White
Town—refers to Gibara’s nickname. “I like the cultural life here. I
like the idiosyncrasies of the place.”
At the Hostal Sol y Mar, which abuts Gibara’s modest
malecón (seaside promenade) and boasts a friendly, multilingual
staff, visitors can sit on a front porch cooled by the sea breeze. The
visible blades of windmills for wind-energy farms turn lazily just
outside of town, along a rocky shoreline. Gibara’s nearest tourist
beach—the somewhat stark, mostly treeless Playa Caletones—
awaits a rough 45-minute drive down the coast. [A fancier option
for accommodations nearer to the center of town is the refurbished,
turn-of-the-century 27-room Hotel Ordoño.]
Just outside of the Sol y Mar is a commanding statue of the
celebrated Cuban rebel leader Camilo Cienfuegos, looking much
as he did in life: Bewhiskered, a guajiro (peasant) hat pulled down
over his head, and a machine gun clutched in one hand. [Cienfuegos’
plane disappeared mysteriously over the Straits of Florida
less than a year after the Revolution’s triumph in 1959.] As the
statue of Cienfuegos hints, Gibara’s current placid vibe belies a
“Historically, this region was always the rebellious province
against Havana, so many movements started in Oriente,” says
Jaime Suchlicki, director of the University of Miami's Institute
92 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
Locals get around town easily by bicycle
A swordfish adorns the bandstand on the seaside promenade
for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, referring to the wider
region by the name it was known until 1976. “This was the port
where boats from Key West and elsewhere in the United States
landed in Cuba on expeditions against [dictator] Gerardo Machado
in the 1930s.”
Though Hurricane Ike battered Gibara nearly a decade ago,
the town––founded in 1817––has recovered splendidly, with
much of its old colonial core intact. Excellent seafood restaurants—some
with rooftop views—dot Gibara, and residents are
friendly and welcoming to visitors. In the evening, visitors can
sit and enjoy a drink at the Centro Cultural Recreativo that abuts
the Parque Calixto García, listening to the songs of birds as they
return to the surrounding robles africanos (a kind of African oak).
For a more raucous experience, head to the Plaza de la Cultura,
with grand, late 19th century buildings gazing down on its
square, and various establishments such as Bar La Loja hosting
nightly music ranging from reggaetón DJs to full-on floor shows.
In addition to the spontaneous examples of the region’s
artistic temperament, every April the town hosts the Festival
Internacional del Cine Pobre de Gibara, founded in 2003 by the late
Cuban filmmaker Humberto Solás (director of the famous 1968
film "Lucía"). Dedicated to self-described “low budget” cinema,
the festival attracts hundreds of visitors to the town every year
(Solas himself passed away in 2008).
Some of the town’s festivals have more religious roots, such
as the Fiesta de San Fulgencio Esta and the Fiesta del Gibareño
Ausente. Suppressed during the anti-Catholic tide immediately
following the 1959 Revolution, these have begun to gingerly
Gibara is a place to visit more for its ambiance than for any
specific site. In a country whose iconic images—old cars, the
distinctive lilt of well-known Cuban son tunes—have become a
bit too-familiar, Gibara offers visitors a unique opportunity: The
chance to discover a new place off the beaten path. H
Open for Business: BUILDING
THE NEW CUBAN ECONOMY
Richard E. Feinberg’s guide to the Cuban economy
is nothing less than a handbook on how to fix what’s
broken and make the engine hum
By J.P. Faber
One of the most refreshing aspects of
Richard Feinberg’s overview of the Cuban
economy—and what it needs to thrive—is
the book’s distinct freedom from any political
agenda. Feinberg, befitting his training
as an economist, addresses the subject
without judgment or the baggage of opinion.
The result may be the most objective
treatise on Cuba’s economic challenges
and opportunities in print today.
Among other virtues, the book is
based on impressive amounts of research.
Feinberg, who is both a professor at the
University of California–San Diego and
part of the Brookings Institution brain
trust, brings to bear an arsenal of details
from both inside and outside Cuba. “I did
a lot of legwork,” he says when asked how
he garnered his information.
Feinberg manages the gymnastics
of big picture-little picture discourse
with dexterity, from inside the corporate
and political channels where decisions
are made at 20,000 feet, to on the
street with individual entrepreneurs.
He moves from macro insights in trade
relationships, foreign direct investment,
legal frameworks, and savings patterns to
laser–specific examples of the challenges
foreign companies face.
Feinberg also shines with his wellcrafted
models of what could have been,
should have been, and still can be done to
rocket the Cuban economy. He traces the
past economic experiments of the Cuban
government with equanimity, offering
kudos for accomplishments and criticisms
for failings. It is as much a book about
lost opportunities as it is a blueprint of
the possibilities that still lie ahead for
Cuba’s potentially wealth-creating
Particularly interesting for U.S.
readers are Feinberg’s case studies, both
of foreign corporations doing business in
Cuba and of local entrepreneurs trying to
gain traction. Among the deals he probes
are Canada’s Sherritt International and
its mining operations, Spain’s Meliá and
its hotel operations, and BrasCuba, the
Brazilian cigarette-making joint venture,
the oldest of its kind in the country. All
had to wend their way through a maze of
regulations, but all have done well.
Feinberg looks at small businesses
as well, via interviews with a panoply of
young entrepreneurs––people who are
setting up private B&Bs, cafés, catering
firms, electronics repair shops, car rental
services, construction companies, and
the like, with honest reflections on their
challenges and progress.
Unlike most books about Cuba,
Open for Business also looks to the future.
Feinberg presents readers with three likely
scenarios—Decay, Inertia, or a Sunny
2030—a sort of economic version of the
Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Showing
his optimism, Feinberg leans toward the
most hopeful of the possible paths, the
one where the centrally planned economy
transitions to one that is instead “smartly
Getting there will be the challenge.
It will take some aggressive tinkering,
which is what this book is ultimately
about: How to fix the broken clock that
is the Cuban economy, how to tighten
its gears and replace its missing parts,
so that the whole thing will hum along
94 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
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DON'T STOP NOW
Soy Growers Hope for
Continued Opening of
Cuba to U.S. Soy
By Ron Moore
Ron Moore farms in Roseville, Ill., and serves as
president of the American Soybean Association
Trade is the lifeblood of the American soybean industry, and as
we move into 2017, soybean farmers face both opportunities and
barriers to enhancing global trade.
While the major foreign markets for U.S. soy—China,
Mexico, Japan, Germany—remain unchanged, one emerging
market that has shown a great deal of potential is Cuba. Given
its close proximity to major U.S. ports, its importation of more
than 80 percent of its food, and its emerging economic potential,
Cuba represents a growth market for American soybeans––if we
can get the policy right. That process begins with continuing the
progress on removing the economic embargo that stands in the
way of trade between our two countries. The American Soybean
Association supports that progress, and at the regional level, my
home-state Illinois Soybean Growers has been a leading voice in
the dialogue over normalization of trade with Cuba.
Cuba is a missed opportunity for American soy. As recently
as 2008, U.S. farm exports to Cuba totaled almost $700 million.
However, those sales totaled less than $200 million just
two years ago and have since slipped to less than 10 percent of
the nearly $2 billion market that Cuba represents. This loss is
due almost entirely to the continued trade embargo, and while
American companies have been able to export to Cuba since
2001, several key conditions exist that prevent those sales from
reaching their full potential. These barriers require congressional
action to overcome.
Chief among these roadblocks is Cuba's access to credit. As
long as the U.S. maintains its provision requiring Cuban purchasers
to pay cash in advance or use a third-party institution,
our farmers are placed at a serious disadvantage behind foreign
competitors that can extend credit.
Both chambers of Congress now have efforts ongoing to ease
trade between the U.S. and Cuba by addressing those remaining
barriers. ASA supports a bill sponsored by Rep. Rick Crawford
and Sens. John Boozman and Heidi Heitkamp to remove the
While Cuba will not provide nearly as large a market for
U.S. soy as China or Mexico, we support the expansion of trade
between our countries because the island nation nonetheless represents
a valuable market for our products. In a time of distressed
markets and lower prices, we need to explore more trade, not less.
This expansion of trade makes for strong rural economies.
At the executive level, the Obama Administration took
significant strides to normalize relations between our two nations.
This included the reopening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana and
the removal of restrictions on the use of checkoff funds to market
American products in Cuba.
It is our sincere hope that President Trump and Congress
will continue our progress toward opening the Cuban marketplace
to American soy, and we look forward to working together
with both to see that happen. H
96 CUBATRADE MARCH 2017
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