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Extending bridges between Miami and Havana

CAFE Cuban Americans for Engagement

Jorge de Armas, a Cuban American, represents many of the people from the other side of the Strait of Florida who promote normalized relations between those on both shores.

De Armas is a member of the organization CAFE (Cuban Americans for Engagement), which along with three others, have recently organized the conference  “US/Cuba Relations, the Second Obama Administration: The Cuban-American Community and Changes in Cuba- Building Bridges for Better Relations,”  in Miami. In this interview, De Armas speaks about this important event where they sought to build bridges between Cuba and the United States after more than 50 years of conflict.

Global Voices (GV): A CAFE for Cuba…

JD: CAFE is a political group intending to impact those effective policies affecting relations between Cuba y the United States. 

From that point of view, as members of CAFE, we made several trips to the US congress and to the Cuban Interest Section in Washington, seeking to put forth viable proposals that may improve relations.

(GV): What do you think the impact of this event in Miami will be, regarding the relations between the Cuban men and women from both shores and both governments?

JA:  In this case, the impact of the event is twofold,the first is to show that Miami, as a historical enclave of policies for regimen shift towards the Island, has changed,  its composition has changed and the community's interests are no longer in harmony with anti-Cuban policies as well as against all contact. The second is that the organizations looking for this rapprochement, yet marked by different desires may join each other for the greater good. 

Another aspect worth mentioning is that the involvement of the speakers who live in Cuba did not get stuck on the intellectualized debate on Cuba. Abiel San Miguel-Estévez's involvement, a manager of renowned family-run restaurant in La Habana, Doña Eutimia, propitiated a rich debate concerning the ways in which businesses move forward, the relations between entrepreneurs and the neutral, financial and institutional environment and that it is becoming clearer that the mood of the environment is favoring small developing private businesses in Cuba.

The potential impact on the Island will depend on the feasibility of broadcasting this event and what was said there.

Participantes en el panel “Los cambios en Cuba y el ambiente externo: Una visión desde la Isla”. Foto: Andrés Cabrera

Panel participants “The Changes in Cuba and the external environment: A vision from the Island”. Photo Andrés Cabrera

GV: What can we do to disseminate the event's outcome?

JA: A downloadable version of the entire presentation will soon be released, along with all the videos. The debates that were generated by the panels were open forums, with many rich nuances and diverse reactions, which demonstrate that we, Cubans, are capable of speaking our minds.

GV: What are some hands-on solutions within the economic sector that were debated or raised during the event? 

JA: Within the current context of Cuba, which is none other than a country in transition, with the distinctive feature that its relations with the United States are permeated by the blockade and a historical hostile environment, the hands-on solution in the economic scope often times stem from hands-on solutions in the political scope.

Because many of the measures adapted by Cuba have the force of law and must forcibly go through the congressional sieve in order to be repealed, the event made clear a set of possibilities that the president could take into account, that would lighten the mood regarding hostility and would facilitate an emergent commerce with the Island. 

Is it President Obama's intent to eliminate Cuba from the list of terrorist countries, this would enable those signatory countries with anti-terrorist treaties, that have restrictions, to expand their relations with the country. As for financial entities that are unaffected by the blockage, but still are affected due to the treaties against those terrorist countries, could thus provide financial services to Cuban entities.

One other practical possibility would be to take advantage of the fact that the blockage impedes the United States from having commercial relations with the Cuban government, but by obtaining a private sector, a tolerance threshold could be implemented so that North American businesses can trade with that private sector.

The executive director could establish a General License so that North American citizens can travel to Cuba without any limitations.

GV: And from the Island?

JA: In the same respect Cuba could take significant steps towards shaking off views regarding strong misgivings about opening up conversations, between both nations, which may still linger amongst people in the US. Thus, even without belonging to the OAS, Cuba could express intentions of signing the pan-American anti-terrorist treaty, to which the United States is a signatory.

These practical solutions depend on the willingness of the governments. There lacks a climate conducive to respect and good faith. 

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