Sunday, November 1, 2020

Trump: Elections, What For?

"We’re going to have to see what happens" was the response of President Donald Trump on September 23 when asked if he would accept the result in the November elections. This is the same defiant stance he held during the first presidential "debate" on September 29 when Chris Wallace asked him if he was committed to a peaceful transition of power.

Trump responded by questioning the legitimacy of the election based on alleged fraud in mail-in ballots and encouraged his supporters to go to the polls as "observers" to verify the integrity of the vote. This translates into a strategy of intimidation of his opponents and voter suppression, or simply an effort to discourage citizens from participating in a process declared shady before it even begins.

Perhaps with the increasingly clear awareness that he is highly unlikely to win “fair and square” based on the popular vote or the Electoral College, his strategy is to sow distrust over the results. He also said in the debate that he was counting on the possible intervention of the Supreme Court to grant him victory after bringing the electoral process to litigation. And during Senate hearings on her nomination to the high court, Judge Amy Coney Barrett refused to say whether she would recuse herself from potential cases related to the November election if she is confirmed.

I am hopeful - and confident - that Biden and Harris will emerge victorious after all the votes are counted given their wide lead both nationally and in many key swing states through November 1. But from his most recent statements and as well as from other public statements via Twitter, I am anything but confident that Trump will accept an electoral defeat. Actually, I fear that his obstinacy could very well produce a constitutional crisis in the weeks following the November 3 election.

If Biden doesn't win by such a substantial margin that he can be declared the winner on election night, perhaps the most likely and terrifying scenario is that Trump will declare himself as such with only the votes already counted. This would happen before the mail-in ballots are recorded - and given the continued threat of the pandemic, such voters promise to be more numerous than ever this year. In such a late “blue shift” scenario, Trump and his supporters would accuse Democrats of fraud and turn to the Supreme Court and Senate (and the National Guard?) to intervene on their behalf.

Source: Geoffrey Skelley

Indeed, this is exactly the scenario that Trump senior advisor Jason Miller attempted to pass off as normal in an appearance on ABC News' "This Week" on Sunday, November 1. 

"If you speak with many smart Democrats, they believe that President Trump will be ahead on election night, probably getting 280 electoral [votes] somewhere in that range, and then they’re going to try to steal it back after the election. We believe we will be over 290 electoral votes on election night, so no matter what they try to do, what kind of hijinks or lawsuits or whatever kind of nonsense they try to pull off, we’ll have enough electoral votes to get President Trump re-elected."

This is not how elections work in the United States of America! 

No state certifies final results at midnight on election day and all states will be counting legitimate votes well after then.

Source: Geoffrey Skelley

The threat that Trump represents to American democracy should provoke chilling memories in Cubans (both on the island and in the diaspora) if we recall three facts from their own history:

(1) the chronic electoral sabotage practiced by the presidents in power during the Republic (1902-1958) who always put their own political and economic interests (and those of their parties) above national interests,

(2) the demonization of the independent press and other institutions of civil society by the Castro regime now for more than half a century, and

(3) the cult of the personality built around the messianic figure of Fidel Castro, which made it easier for him to declare (and for the majority of Cubans to accept) with absolute anti-democratic demagoguery: "Elections, what for?"

In the years since his 2016 election, Trump has systematically politicized or worked to delegitimize the key institutions for democracy in the United States, now including the presidential elections themselves.

Using his own words ("We're going to have to see what happens"), Trump is repeating the same demagogic message that Fidel Castro sounded so ominously and to such disastrous effects so many years ago.

Are we listening? Are we prepared to resist?

Note: An earlier version of this post was published as part of a dossier on the 2020 US election and Cuba in Hypermedia Magazine.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Carlos Acosta's 2007 memoir is titled "No Way Home" but with the 2018 film "Yuli," he may just have arrived!

On a trip I made to Havana just over 10 years ago in the summer of 2008, I attempted to track down and interview Cuban ballet sensation Carlos Acosta, the author of the deeply moving and personally revealing memoir, No Way Home. Though Acosta then lived most of the year in London, a mutual friend had given me his Havana address and tipped me off that he was then visiting his family there. After making my way under Havana’s scorching sun to his newly renovated Nuevo Vedado house, I was greeted at the doorway by one of his associates and led through an elegantly shaded patio into the tastefully decorated front room of his spacious home.

Disappointed to learn that Acosta was not in, I proceeded to leave my business card with the hope that we could meet later. However, before turning to leave, my eyes finally adjusted to the muted light inside the cool, dark living room and I suddenly realized that sitting directly in front of me in a wooden rocking chair was an impossibly old, rail-thin, charcoal black man who could be none other than Acosta’s father Pedro.

Photo of Pedro Acosta by Ted A. Henken.
Not wanting to pass up the opportunity to talk with the man who was surely Acosta’s greatest single influence (if often vividly described in the book as a fierce disciplinarian), I quickly introduced myself saying how I felt that I already knew him through having read his son's memoir.

“You must be very proud of Carlos’s accomplishments and happy that he thought to dedicate his memoir to his family, even singling you out as, ‘one of the greatest men I have ever known’,” I asked.

At this, 90-year-old Pedro did not respond but instead began to smirk at me. Taking note, I jokingly reprimanded him, saying, “Your son has achieved great things but don’t you think you were just a little too harsh on him all those years, always telling him to forget his home and family and focus only on achieving his goals as a dancer?”

As I said this, the smirk on his face slowly grew into an electric, ironic grin, as he leaned back comfortably in his rocking chair and spread his arms out wide as if to say, “Nothing in this life comes without hard work and sacrifice. Look around and you can see, at long last, the result.”


What follows below is the book review that I wrote following that visit. It was first published exactly 10 years ago in The International Journal of Cuban Studies (Volume 1, Issue 2, December 2008). I'm republishing it here since few people ever read it then in that low circulation, hard to access academic journal (!) and also because I recently looked it up in the archives of my laptop and reread it given that it is the basis of the new film "Yuli" (directed by Spaniard Icíar Bollaín and staring Acosta himself), which just premiered in Cuba at the International Havana Film Festival.

One major, bitter irony is that while the film did premier in Havana this month, the book on which it is based has never been available to Cubans on the island - still 11 years after it was first published to rave reviews in Europe. For more on that controversial saga, see this excellent article from Havana Times by Maykel Paneque, "Cuban Dancer Carlos Acosta in the World of Alicia Alonso."


Carlos Acosta. No Way Home: A Dancer’s Journey from the Streets of Havana to the Stages of the World. New York: Scribner, 2008.

First published in the United Kingdom in 2007 under the title, No Way Home: A Cuban Dancer’s Story (and translated from the original Spanish by Kate Eaton), Cuban ballet sensation Carlos Acosta’s deeply nostalgic autobiography was released in the United States in May, 2008, with the subtitle, A Dancer’s Journey from the Streets of Havana to the Stages of the World. This dramatic new subtitle of the American edition captures Acosta’s successful journey from poverty and obscurity on the outskirts of revolutionary Cuba’s capital to wealth and fame in cities as diverse as Milan, Lausanne, Houston, Tokyo, Paris, Moscow, New York, and London. However, the underlying message of his engaging and intimately reflective coming-of-age story is more accurately captured by its heartbreaking, three-word title, No Way Home.

Though there does not yet seem to be a Spanish language edition of Acosta’s memoir in print, “No hay regreso” is the way a Cuban might translate No Way Home.

[Note: There is now an Amazon digital Kindle edition of the book available in Spanish. Entitled, Sin mirar atrás: La historia de un bailarín cubano, this Spanish language edition is being published or re-published - it seems - to coincide with the release of the film "Yuli"]

For example, the slang Cuban expression “no tiene regreso,” is frequently used among Cuban émigrés in the United States to describe someone for whom the experience of exile has been so harrowingly transformative that the person in question “can never go home again.” Since, as with Acosta, even if they do make it home again physically, home is no longer the home they left behind, and they are not the same person they once were. Thus, while Acosta’s rags-to-riches story abounds with the many details and dilemmas specific to the Cuban diasporic experience and to his own impoverished Afro-Cuban family background and revolutionary generation, it is his constant focus on the personal and emotional price of his success and his tragic inability to ever fully recover the past – to ever go home again – that makes his tale a compelling, universal one.

Throughout the book, the portrait Acosta paints of himself is that of an insecure and almost paralyzingly lonely boy from the wrong side of the tracks who succeeds in turning himself into a world-class dancer and a confident and accomplished young man. However, in order to reach his artistic destiny, he must first pass through an often awkward and solitary adolescence, endure his father’s strict discipline and emotional impenetrability, abandon his childhood dream of being a football star like his hero the famous Brazilian Pelé, and slowly loose touch with that part of himself he most values: his easy intimacy and emotional connection to his family. However, while he succeeds in this Herculean task through a combination of raw talent, an iron will power and work ethic, making the best of revolutionary opportunity, and the loving if often insensitive guidance of his disciplinarian father, each success only serves to make him ever-more aware of the bitter price of his ticket to fame.

Despite his steadily increasing success, Acosta’s battle against insecurity and nostalgia continues to haunt him well into his professional career. At one point toward the end of his first year as a dancer in the Houston Ballet, Acosta finally figures out the source of the anxiety that had been plaguing him. Since arriving in the U.S., he had managed to make good friends, achieve professional success, and even fall in love. However, he had not succeeded in pushing out of his mind his deep, almost suffocating fear of living a life without roots. Suddenly, with his defenses down and his nostalgia on the rise while watching the Gregory Nava film, “Mi Familia,” about the hardships endured by multiple generations of a Mexican immigrant family, Acosta is overcome by “a terrible fear that […] I would be a foreigner for the rest of my life.” As a result, he resolves to abandon his promising career abroad and return to the familiar and protective cocoon of his family in Los Pinos, the humble Havana neighborhood where he grew up.

Each of the numerous times Acosta comes to this decision, however, he is rebuffed by his father, who repeatedly gives him the stern advice, “The only way you’re going to help your sisters, your mother, and all of us, is by being the best dancer you can be. […] Forget about everything else and concentrate on your career. It’s not only what you owe yourself, it’s what you owe us, the ones who didn’t have the luck to be born with your talent.” Later, his father advises him, “Don’t give in to nostalgia. Forget everything. […] Men are born into the world to fulfill their destiny, and yours isn’t here. We’re the ones who were born to live and die in Los Pinos. Your future lies elsewhere. However much you want to, […] never look back.”

Toward the end of his tale and during a particularly wrenching family crisis when his sister has attempted suicide due to her chronic suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, his father makes him promise to follow the path of “great men” and never be distracted from achieving his goals. Though Acosta manages to keep this promise to his father, he later tearfully rebukes him after Pedro tries to convince him that the fate of great men is to “belong to the world,” arguing, “Your art is your house, my son.” Carlos agrees that his success has assured him that he will have many fine houses [much like the largely empty one in Nuevo Vedado where I met his father], but he says, “all I really wanted was a home.” However, his years of travel plagued by chronic nostalgia have only taught him the bitter lesson that “a house is not a home.”

That his struggle is as much an emotional one against the ghosts of his past as it is an artistic one to master the proper techniques of classical ballet is most clearly expressed late in the book when Acosta has a chance sighting of Baryshnikov while performing at a benefit in New York City in 1996.  Instead of praising him for his signature artistic achievements, Acosta admires and identifies most closely with Baryshnikov for “the courage he showed in swapping the certainty of his old life for the uncertainty of a new one, knowing that by doing so he could never go back.”

Thus, for Acosta, Baryshnikov is both an artistic muse and an emotional mirror – a reflection of his own inner turmoil over what he had to leave behind to fulfill his destiny. Others marvel at the outer trappings of Baryshnikov’s success. Acosta marvels at the inner triumph of spirit few others can see, since few others but he have experienced it personally. Later that same day, when observers see Acosta dance, they marvel at how he is “Just like Baryshnikov!” However, for Acosta, his most important similarity to the great Russian dancer is not in their accomplished interpretative ability or seemingly effortless technique, but in the fact that they are both permanent foreigners, always exiles, “not afraid to burn [themselves] in [their] efforts to reach the sun.”

One minor, frustrating shortcoming of the book is Acosta’s decision in a number of instances to share with us only part of his story – perhaps with the calculated aim of preserving his tenuous ability to periodically return to his homeland and see his family. While the book is clearly more of a personal and artistic memoir than a political one, when Acosta does touch on political matters his opinions and criticisms of Cuba’s authoritarian system (and the authoritarian functioning of some of its cultural institutions) are more often implied than clearly stated.

For example, in a chapter dedicated to one of his mentors, Ramona de Sáa (known to all by the nickname Chery), Acosta celebrates her brave decision to arrange his contract with the English National Ballet without the prior approval of the Cuban authorities. As a result, “When Chery got back to Havana, she was accused by the directorate of the Cuban National Ballet of acting irresponsibly by exposing me, so young, to the brutalities of capitalism. Her detractors said I would be sure to undergo an irreversible ideological subversion and that foreign influences would undermine my Cuban identity.” While Chery ultimately prevailed over her detractors with her reputation intact, Acosta’s description of this episode shows his preference for oblique sarcasm and satire over direct criticism and denunciation.

This tendency is even more evident in Acosta’s descriptions of his relationship with the most important and powerful figure in the history of Cuban ballet, Alicia Alonso. “Alicia is a legend,” Acosta writes, “she is a figure of such importance that her power could be compared to that of the president. One word from Alicia can change your future.” While Acosta is careful never to openly criticize such a concentration of power in a single person, he does make clear that his future, like that of all Cuban ballet dancers, rests in her hands.

In one particular instance, for example, he must gain her blessing before signing a contract to dance with the Houston Ballet. However, his cryptic and abbreviated description of this tense, life-changing meeting only hints at Alonso’s haughty, belittling bearing and thinly-veiled racism, leaving the reader confused and unsatisfied. But, alas, cryptic communication and self-censorship among artists and intellectuals is one of the pernicious hallmarks of the Cuban Revolution's infamous "Política Cultural," first established by Fidel himself in his 1961 "Words to the Intellectuals."

In the end, even as Acosta’s beautifully written memoir recounts his professional development and mounting artistic success, it succeeds as a powerful work of autobiography because it does so through the prism of the personal sacrifice, emotional trauma, and almost paralyzing loneliness that accompany him, haunting every step on his journey. Again and again throughout his Horatio Alger (Billy Elliot) tale, Acosta finds that his artistic achievements are often overshadowed, very nearly eclipsed, by an almost palpable, aching nostalgia.

While standard-fare memoirs of “escape” from Cuba often suffer from the facile assumption that all good things go together and are available only beyond the shores of this poor, “imprisoned” isle, Acosta’s memoir succeeds due to its commitment to painting a fiercely honest, personally searing, and politically complex portrait of his homeland where success beyond Cuba is always paid for with a deep sense of loss and gnawing nostalgia for what was left behind – the life taken from you, the life you did not get to live.

In Acosta’s case, this nostalgia is for his rough-and-tumble yet dignified, idyllically remembered childhood; for his sense of belonging and rootedness in his homeland; and, most importantly, for the closeness and intimacy of his increasingly distant, conflict-ridden, and tragedy-prone family.

*Copyright for this work is held jointly between Ted A. Henken and the International Journal of Cuban Studies under a Creative Commons, Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivative 3.0 License   

*An earlier version of this review was published in IJCS, Volume 1, Issue 2, December 2008.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Cuba: Navigating in a Turbulent World

Cuba: Navigating in a Turbulent World


Contact:  Blanca Silva





"Cuba: Navigating in a Turbulent World" Taking Place at Downtown Miami Hilton July 27-29


Miami – July 7, 2017 – The Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE) will hold its 27th Annual Conference at the downtown Miami Hilton (1601 Biscayne Boulevard) July 27-29. Titled "Cuba: Navigating in a Turbulent World," the three-day event will focus on evaluating the state of the Cuban economy, taking into consideration the impending changes in Cuba's relations with the United States. The conference program will feature scholarly individual presentations and roundtable discussions by world-class experts, including specialists from the island. 


"With Venezuela's collapsing economy, one of the key issues to be discussed at this year's conference is the future of Cuba without Venezuelan trade and subsidies," says Helena Solo-Gabriele, Ph.D., ASCE president and an engineering professor at University of Miami. "Another key issue is whether Cuba will implement the economic reforms needed to stimulate the private sector and attract foreign investment to spur economic growth."

Cuba's dual currency system, current economic policies, and prospects for future growth and change will be covered at the conference, together with social and legal issues related to the economy. This year, there will be two sessions dedicated to legal issues in Cuba titled "Foreign Investment in Cuba:  Law, Policies, and Practicalities" and "Coordinating U.S. and Legal Principles to Resolve Property and Damage Claims."  Continuing law education credits are available for both sessions.  Additional topics include tourism, real estate, and agriculture. 


An impressive roster of presenters who have been chosen based on the quality of their paper submissions include keynote speaker Marc Frank, a journalist working in Havana for Reuters and "Financial Times," and author of "Cuban Revelations:  Behind the Scenes in Havana."  Others include faculty from many esteemed universities in the United States and experts from the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, U.S. Department of Labor, and U.S. Department of State.  


Special guest presenters who will be able to travel from Cuba include leading economist Omar Everleny Pérez Villanueva who will speak about economic anticipations on the island; intellectuals Dagoberto Valdés Hernández and Yoandy Izquierdo Toledo, both from Centro de Convivencia, who will speak about Cuba's education system and its impact on the economy; Dr. Alina Lopez Hernández, a philosophy professor and essayist, who will speak about the realities of the Cuban economy; top journalist Ernesto Perez Chang of Cubanet News who will speak about journalistic interpretations of Cuba's economy; Dr. Olimpia Gómez Consuegra, an agricultural engineer and a member of the Cuban Academy of Science until 2011 who will participate on a panel about agriculture; Laritza Diversent, a lawyer, independent journalist and human rights defender who will discuss the struggle to establish independent civil society organizations; and Joanna Columbié, an activist with Academia del Movimiento Politico Somos + who will also touch on the struggles of independent civil society. Sessions by these guest presenters will be conducted in Spanish.


"We aim to gauge the state of the Cuban economy with scholarly discussions and research where the participation of intellectuals in Cuba is very relevant," said Solo-Gabriele. "With this valuable exchange, we are creating a rich body of knowledge that supports ASCE's mission of promoting scholarly discussion on the Cuban economy."


In addition to scholars and professionals, the conference will feature a graduate and undergraduate student panel with papers addressing Cuba's housing sustainability, the influence of foreign policies, and even the influence of foreign fashion on the Cuban identity. Student papers were judged by a panel of experts and the winning students will receive a modest scholarship award plus travel funds to participate in the conference. These students are represented internationally from the U.S., the Netherlands, and Belgium.  


"We are very appreciative of the financial support received from the Christopher Reynolds Foundation for the student paper competition and the Cuban scholar travel plans," says Solo-Gabriele.


"Cuba:  Navigating in a Turbulent World" will open on Thursday, July 27th with two plenary sessions after an 8 a.m. breakfast; concurrent sessions will follow lunch and will dominate the Friday and Saturday programs. While a cocktail reception will take place on Thursday after the conference, an ASCE business meeting will be held on Friday at 6:45 p.m. The event closes on Saturday at 12:45 p.m. with two concurrent sessions. For more information on this conference, go to www.ascecuba.orgTo register, go to


The Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE) is a non-profit, non-political organization incorporated in the state of Maryland in 1990.  With members from the US, Latin America and Europe, its mission is to promote research, publications, and scholarly discussion on the Cuban economy in its broadest sense, including on the social, economic, legal and environmental aspects of a transition to a free market economy and a democratic society in Cuba.  ASCE is committed to a civil discussion of all points of view. Affiliated with the American Economic Association and the Allied Social Sciences Association of the United States, ASCE maintains professional contacts with economists inside Cuba –whether independent or associated with the Cuban government-- who are interested in engaging in scholarly discussion and research. 

Salaam Alaikum, Ted

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Así comienza el día...

At 9:42 a.m. yesterday almost 4 hours before President Donald Trump took the stage in Miami's Little Havana a good friend of mine got this cancellation for her BnB across the waters in Old Havana. 

Tell me again how the new Trump-Rubio-Díaz-Balart measures will help Cuba's cuentapropistas?

Join me on a completely legal group P2P trip to the new #Cuba!

Dear friends,

If you want to know my take on the new Trump Cuba regulations you can check out my Facebook or Twitter timeline (@elyuma).

However, after reviewing those new regulations I realize that he and Marco Rubio just threw some new business my way!

I was already scheduled to be the on-board educator for a 10-day people-to-people educational and cultural cruise to Cuba in late December. The Trump policy ratifies the basic legality of those trips, so contact me if you want to join.


Additionally, I'm scheduled to lead a group people-to-people tour to Cuba in early January. We currently have 6 travelers but given the fact that by then individual people-to-people travel will be outlawed, I realize we may get a surge of interest in joining our fully legal group visit.

So contact me if you're interested in joining me and our other happy travelers. 


Rest assured that every effort will be made to spend our hard earned currency in private sector establishments (including private BnBs and paladar restaurants) which has been my policy for > 20 years now. 

¡Que vivan los cuentapropistas!

Friday, June 16, 2017

CubaOne Statement on President Trump’s Cuba Policy

CubaOne Foundation: President Trump's Cuba Policy is Largely Consistent with Our Recommendations


MIAMI—Earlier this week, the CubaOne Foundation, the Miami-based nonprofit that sponsors heritage visits to Cuba for young Cuban Americans, sent President Trump and his National Security Council a letter urging him to pursue a pro-family Cuba policy. Our letter made six key recommendations:

  1. Promote America's Commitment to Human Rights

  2. Affirm the Rights of Cuban-Americans to Visit and Help Family in Cuba

  3. Encourage U.S. Travelers to Support Cuba's Private Sector

  4. Engage the Cuban Government to Lower its Passport and Visa Fees

  5. Maintain the U.S. Embassy in Havana

  6. Support Cuba's Entrepreneurs, Youth, and Access to Technology

We look forward to seeing the final details of the President's policy, but our initial assessment is that it is largely consistent with our recommendations to the White House.

We thank the President for recognizing the rights of Cuban Americans to freely visit and send remittances to their families. This is a strong victory for the Cuban American community, the Cuban people, and our organization.

We were also encouraged to learn that Americans can continue traveling to Cuba individually so long as they stay in Cuban family homes and directly support the private sector. While it remains to be seen how the regulations are written, this general approach would be welcomed news for the island's young entrepreneurs and small businesses if it does not prevent Americans from visiting the island. As we said in our letter to the President, kitchen table diplomacy works and there are no better ambassadors for our values than the American people.

We also applaud the President's decision to maintain our diplomatic mission in Havana. The U.S. will continue to be better positioned to advocate its values and engage Cuba on important issues, such as human rights and lowering passport fees that penalize low-income families.  We're also encouraged by the White House's indication that U.S. technology and telecommunication companies may continue supporting the Cuban people's access to information and the internet.

CubaOne remains committed to working closely with the Administration and members from both parties on U.S.-Cuba policy. For us, Cuba is an issue where there is no such thing as political parties—it's about our families, our community, and the Cuban people.


Giancarlo Sopo | Chairman
M: 1.917.244.4107

CubaOne Foundation |

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Cuban women entrepreneurs urge Ivanka Trump to lobby on their behalf

Ms. Ivanka Trump,

First Daughter and Assistant to the President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20500

June 13, 2017

Dear Ms. Trump:

Your passion to help female entrepreneurship around the world has been very inspiring for Cuban entrepreneurs. As women entrepreneurs in Cuba, it is a great honor to send you this message. We are reaching out to introduce you to our reality and to strengthen the relationship between our countries. We also write to you with great concern U.S. policy toward Cuba might be headed backward, in turn threatening our economic livelihoods and the overall well-being of Cubans on and off the island.

For many years, entrepreneurship, small businesses, and the private sector were almost nonexistent in Cuba. However, over the last several years they have begun to flourish. Still incipient, we can see accelerated development and growth of small businesses in the country. Millions of Cubans have benefited from this private sector growth, including higher wages, better quality products and services, innovation, and the ability to dream about the future.

Undoubtedly, the restoration of relations between Cuba and the United States has been key to the success of the private sector. Many businesses have been directly influenced by increased U.S. visits, improved telecommunications, and the introduction of new U.S. products and services. Other businesses have also been stimulated indirectly by the resuscitation of the domestic economy in general. A setback in the relationship would bring with it the fall of many of our businesses and with this, the suffering of all those families that depend on them.

Much of the growth has been led by Cuban women. There are hundreds of thousands of Cuban women working in the private sector. Today we are owners of boutique hotels, B&Bs, restaurants, and shops. We are designers, photographers, and computer programmers, and much more. On behalf of Cuba’s female entrepreneurs, we ask for your support.

We hope you, as a successful businesswoman, understand the valuable contribution that the exchange of trade, people, and ideas represents for our businesses. An alliance between women would not only contribute to the stability of the private sector, but would also open a new chapter in relations between our countries.

We would like you to accept our sincere and warm invitation. Come to Cuba and get to know our companies, which we have built with our own efforts and that make us prouder by the day. Please support travel, trade, and exchanges between our two countries.

Thank you for your interest and dedication to women. Thank you for building bridges worldwide. We really appreciate your help in shaping a better future for our daughters.


Monday, June 12, 2017

An Open Letter to the President of the United States From Young Cuban Americans

An Open Letter to the President of the United States From Young Cuban Americans
June 12, 2017

President Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President: Since our founding, the CubaOne Foundation has worked to inspire a new generation of Americans to reconnect with their heritage, family, and peers in Cuba. Over 2,000 millennials from across the country and all walks of life have applied to our program, which many have described as “life-changing.” We have seen young Cuban Americans hug their grandparents for the first time, explore their heritage, develop friendships with Cuba’s youth, and return to share these deeply moving experiences with their loved ones and communities here in the United States.

Today we are among the largest Cuban American organizations in the country. While much of our efforts would not be possible without the policy changes that began on December 17, 2014, our work transcends Washington’s politics, administrations, and political parties. We are willing to work with any administration. As the children and grandchildren of political prisoners, Pedro Pan refugees, Bay of Pigs veterans, and people who fled Cuba on the Mariel boatlift, we understand the pain of exile and the importance of human rights.

As a presidential candidate, you said that you would pursue “a better deal” with Cuba. To the majority of Americans and our Cuban American community, a “better deal” means advancing U.S. interests and improving the quality of life of the Cuban people, not returning to Cold War policies. In advance of your upcoming visit to Miami, we respectfully ask that you consider our recommendations which represent the views of the majority of Americans, Cuban Americans, and Cubans on the island:

1. A PRO-FAMILY POLICY PLACES AMERICA FIRST AND PRIORITIZES HUMAN RIGHTS. The North Star of your Cuba policy should be advancing U.S. interests and the wellbeing of the Cuban people. To this end, we encourage you to pursue a pro-family policy of principled engagement. We also strongly support our U.S. diplomats working with their Cuban counterparts to address a variety of issues, including upholding America’s longstanding commitment to human rights around the world.

2. AFFIRM THE RIGHT OF CUBAN AMERICANS TO VISIT AND HELP OUR FAMILIES. Until 2009, Cuban Americans were only allowed to visit the island once every three years. Returning to similar travel regulations would be counterproductive, cruel, and do nothing to improve human rights. No one should ever have to choose between visiting an ailing relative at their bedside or attending their funeral. We strongly urge you to reject these misguided recommendations that disproportionately penalize Cuban American families.

3. ENCOURAGE U.S. TRAVELERS TO SUPPORT CUBA’S PRIVATE SECTOR. Thousands of Americans are visiting Cuba and fueling the fastest growth in its private sector since 1959. Rather than burdening Americans with government regulations that make it harder to visit the island, your Administration should encourage U.S. travelers to stay in Cuban family homes, support privately-owned small businesses, and go beyond the beaten tourist path. We would gladly work with you on developing such an initiative, as this is how we plan our visits to Cuba. Americans are the best ambassadors of our nation’s values, and we should want more of our people engaging and supporting broader cross-sections of Cuban society. Kitchen table diplomacy works, and we should encourage it.

4. ENGAGE THE CUBAN GOVERNMENT TO LOWER FEES ON TRAVELERS TO CUBA. We hope that your Administration will encourage its Cuban counterparts to ease the hardships posed by high fees on Cuban passports and entry visas, which disproportionately affect lower-income families and young Cuban Americans. Moreover, Cuba has indicated it might unify its dual currency system. Your Administration should support this initiative. Cuba’s 10% penalty on exchanging U.S. dollars should also be removed.

5. MAINTAIN THE AMERICAN EMBASSY IN HAVANA. We have read reports that you and Secretary Tillerson have decided to continue our diplomatic mission in Havana. We commend this decision. As the dozens of young Cuban Americans who have visited their loved ones on the island through our program can attest, the U.S. Embassy is vital to American interests and has graciously hosted Cuban Americans, Cuban youth, activists, artists, entrepreneurs, and students.

6. SUPPORT CUBA’S ENTREPRENEURS, YOUTH, AND ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY. Since 2009, Cuba’s licensed private sector workforce has grown by over 300 percent, largely due to an infusion of remittances and visitors from the United States. We have been inspired by the Cuban entrepreneurs--particularly the youth--who work hard to offer better lives for their families. As a father and highly successful businessman, we are sure that you can appreciate the important role of entrepreneurs in societies and families and want to support them. To that end, we also encourage your Administration to double-down on ongoing efforts to facilitate the ability of U.S. telecommunication and technology companies to offer their services to the Cuban people.

These recommendations are actionable, would constitute a “better deal” for the United States, and reflect the views and values of the majority of the American people, Cuban Americans, and the 11 million Cubans on the island. We will always welcome an opportunity to discuss with you the importance of US-Cuba policy to our generation, our community, and our country.


CubaOne Foundation 
100 SE 3rd Ave #1514, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33394

President & CEO Daniel Jiménez

Board Giancarlo Sopo (Chairman)
Lissette Calveiro
Cherie Cancio
Andrew Jiménez

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Can we afford to lose $6.6 billion in revenue and 12k jobs?!

Thurs., June 1, 2017

CONTACT: Madeleine Russak (626) 390-2158

~ New economic impact analysis is released following reports that President Trump is set to to roll back President Obama's Cuba policies ~

WASHINGTON, D.C. -  Today, Engage Cuba led a coalition of business groups, economists and leading Cuba experts in releasing an economic impact analysis estimating that a reversal of Cuba policies would cost the U.S. economy $6.6 billion and affect 12,295 American jobs over the course of the first term of the Trump Administration. Obama Administration policies to loosen regulations on U.S. companies interested in doing business in Cuba have contributed to significant economic growth and job creation throughout the country.

The economic impact analysis was released on the heels of reports that the Trump Administration is set to roll back Obama-era Cuba policies, despite an ongoing inter-agency review that largely favors expanding travel to and trade with Cuba and concerns from U.S. military experts that reversing progress with Cuba would threaten U.S. national security interests. 

Rural communities across the country most reliant on agricultural, manufacturing, and shipping industries would be disproportionately affected by adding regulations on travel and trade to Cuba. This analysis excludes agricultural and medical exports because provisions allowing for limited exports in these sectors were authorized by Congress in 2001, thus predating Obama-era regulatory changes. However, new regulations on exporting agricultural commodities to Cuba could cost an additional $1.5 billion and affect 2,205 jobs more U.S. jobs.

Given their deep water ports and proximity to Cuba, imposing regulations on Cuba would particularly threaten economic growth and job creation in the Gulf states, including Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi, all of which supported President Trump in the 2016 election. 

"Our new relationship with Cuba has led to tangible results for American companies, created U.S. jobs, and strengthened Cuba's growing private sector. If President Trump rolled back our Cuba policy, he would add job-killing government regulations on U.S. businesses. This directly conflicts with President Trump's campaign promises of removing onerous regulations and red tape on U.S. businesses," said President of Engage Cuba, James Williams. "Reimposing restrictions on traveling to Cuba would force Americans to jump through even more bureaucratic hoops to exercise their right to travel freely."

"How sadly ironic and short-sighted it would be if, soon after singing the praises of the repressive leaders of Russia, Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, President Trump were to return to a failed 55-year-old policy of sanctions and ultimatums against tiny Cuba," said U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT). "Rather than cave to the pressure of a dwindling minority who are stuck in the past, he should go to Cuba and speak directly with the Cuban people on behalf of the overwhelming majority of Americans who favor closer relations.  He would see that the current policy has given the Cuban people real hope for a better future, a future that is naturally linked to the United States and the American people."

"In the past two years since President Obama announced his policy of opening up to Cuba, we've seen economic exchanges, investments and jobs growth in the U.S. and in Cuba's private sector. For a jobs-focused President, to reverse these jobs creating reforms, especially one that affects many of the agricultural states that voted for him, makes little economic sense and no political sense," said Christpher Sabatini, a Latin America specialist and executive director of Global Americans. "Ending economic ties and killing U.S. jobs won't improve human rights in Cuba; continuing engagement and expanding those job opportunities--on both sides of the Florida Straits--will."

Dozens of U.S. businesses in almost every sector have begun exploring opportunities for expansion into Cuba. The four major U.S. telecommunications providers now offer roaming on the island, and Google will now allow fast and easy access to its online services.

U.S. travel to Cuba has skyrocketed. As a result, seven U.S. airlines fly direct to Cuba and three cruise lines have reached deals. American travel giants including AirBnb, Expedia and TripAdvisor now offer services in Cuba.

Since December 17, 2014, the Obama Administration issued six rounds of regulatory changes that eased travel and trade restrictions on Cuba. These policy changes have contributed to significant economic activity throughout the country, particularly in the U.S. travel, tourism and manufacturing industries. Additionally, as a result of diplomatic relations, the agreement between the U.S. and Cuba to end the policy known as "wet foot, dry foot," which granted permanent residency and federal benefits to Cubans who arrived by land to the U.S., will save U.S. taxpayers a significant amount of money and strengthen U.S. national security

Cost Summary:
Summaries of the major areas affected by potential rollback are listed below, totaling $6.6 billion and 12,295 jobs. 
  • Travel: U.S. travel to Cuba was liberalized over the past few years by expanding legal travel in 12 categories, self-authorization, and allowing both airlines and cruise lines to offer passenger service to the island. Rolling back expanded travel could cost airlines and cruise lines $3.5 billion and affect 10,154 jobs in those industries.
  • Manufacturing: Manufacturing companies in the energy, chemical, and technology industries are finalizing commercial contracts that will create $929 million worth of exports from the U.S. to Cuba over the next four years. Revoking authorization for manufacturing exports would deal a blow of nearly $1 billion to American businesses and could cost up to 1,359 jobs.
  • Remittances: Estimates on U.S. remittances to Cuba show that Cubans working in the United States send up to $4 billion back to the island every year. Over four years, cutting the remittance flow could cost American money transfer companies $1.2 billion and affect 782 jobs. Additionally, the increase flow of remittances has significantly helped Cuba's growing private sector. 
  • Immigration: In January 2017, the Obama Administration and Cuba reached a deal to end the controversial "wet foot, dry foot" policy, which granted permanent residency to Cuban immigrants who arrived in the U.S. by land. Because the policy granted refugees access to federal social and healthcare entitlements, reinstating it would cost U.S. taxpayers $953 million over four years.
*Estimates do not include agricultural exports, which would bring the total to $8.1 billion USD and 14,500 jobs. 

*All estimates represent an accumulated cost over the four years of President Trump's first term. 

The full report is available here. This economic impact analysis was prepared by Engage Cuba in collaboration with:   

American Society of Travel Agents
Tomas Bilbao, Avila Strategies
Center for Democracy in the Americas
Cuba Educational Travel
Richard Feinberg, Professor, University of California San Diego
Ted Henken, Associate Professor, Baruch College
Vicki Huddleston, Former U.S. Ambassador
William Leogrande, Professor, American University
National Foreign Trade Council
Pearl Seas Cruises
Philip Peters, President, Cuba Research Center
Chris Sabatini, Executive Director, Global Americans
United States-Cuba Business Council
Washington Office on Latin America

About Engage Cuba
Engage Cuba is the leading coalition of private companies and organizations working to end the travel and trade embargo on Cuba. As a 501(c)(4) bipartisan non-profit whose funds are entirely dedicated to advocacy efforts, Engage Cuba is the only organization whose focus is U.S.-Cuba legislative advocacy. Engage Cuba is also committed to supporting the Cuban people and helping organizations and businesses navigate Cuban and U.S. regulations. The organization has the largest bipartisan lobbying operation working on U.S.-Cuba policy. Together with the Engage Cuba Policy Council of renowned experts, Engage Cuba provides timely updates on opportunities for U.S. business in Cuba, regulations, and market analysis. To get involved with Engage Cuba's mission or learn more, visit: