In recent months it has become increasingly more frequent to read news about lobby actions in the United States by some Cuban businesspeople. These have been carried out with the support of certain U.S. pressure groups that are opposed to the blockade and the measures taken during 2017 in relation to Cuba by the Trump administration.
Thus we have known about letters to President Trump requesting that his predecessor’s decisions not be rolled back, about meetings with Congresspeople in Washington and about interviews with diverse U.S. media.
A few days ago OnCuba reported on a new initiative of this type, on this occasion addressed to Senator Marco Rubio. A group of Cuban private businesswomen, according to one of its members, invited “him or part of his team to come and learn about Cuba, the Cubans or about our businesses.”
This new attempt to “influence” has inspired me to bring to public debate an aspect that counters the proposals of the businesswomen.
Before continuing, I want to make two “healthy” clarifications:
1- My intention in this text is not to label of that or the other the colleagues that have become part of the initiative, among which I know several. For me the attempts that pressure as much as possible are valid. One can be – and there won’t be a lack of those who hurry up to label them – naïve, disoriented, not very realistic, but never passive. I respect what they have done, although I believe they have aimed at the wrong target to shoot.
2-Neither should this opinion be interpreted as a voice that irrationally is added to those who demand that private enterprise be the one that gets Cuba out of the situation in which it is. We will all make Cuba prosperous: those who work for the State and those who don’t. The idea is to find the way.
In my opinion, with whom we entrepreneurs have to talk and discuss to be able to fully enjoy – as another of the businesswomen said – “the opportunity of continuing to work,” is with the government of our country.
Today our situation is that of the apple of discord. Some distrust us, others desire us. But no one until now has completely understood us.
On the one hand, the U.S. administration sees us as the embryo of the middle class that will generate changes in Cuban society. On the other, our country’s government still hasn’t accepted us. With the measures taken last August 1, they froze an entire sector to “combat the fiscal indiscipline and the purchase of raw material of illegal origin.” Thus they put us all in the same bag and did not attack the real causes of those phenomena, which for most of us are neither acceptable.
But, no matter how incredible it might seem, both positions ended up coinciding in one point. And that point is the center of the mistake of both in relation to us: they see us disconnected from the national economy.
The Trump administration takes measures that, according to his vision, only affect the Cuban military business structure, which is why we are supposedly safe. But a very serious mistake is committed by not understanding that, like any economic actor of any country, we will do well or badly to the extent that the national economy improves or worsens.
Meanwhile, the Cuban State still hasn’t understood there won’t be an economic takeoff without a greater opening to private work, together with a more efficient and decentralized foreign trade policy, foreign investment and an infallible work by the strategic enterprises it controls.
We are surviving between these two “misunderstandings.” But the greatest tragedy for our sector is not Trump. He is one more of them. The greatest tragedy is the restrictive and contradictory regulations under which we work. It is the sad fact that, deep down, we continue being condemned to underdevelopment by our own way of thinking.
To those who disagree with me on the latter, I propose a simple mental exercise. Think of 10 ways to make your family and Cuba prosperous by working. The first to come to mind will be impossible options, since Cuba is a small underdeveloped country. The rest will be illegal or won’t be authorized. As simple as that.
That’s why I have been insisting for months, in every conversation I have with my colleagues, that it is necessary to work to build a space for dialogue between the Cuban authorities and the private sector. That will require an end to thinking a bit with a “business” head and to think more with the Nation in mind.
Let’s place on the table, to build and not to theorize, topics like the need for a more realistic fiscal treatment, the capacity to import, the creation of small and medium enterprises. Let’s replace the prohibition with the authorization.
The aim of writing up to the smallest detail of the reach of the authorized private activities should be changed for a clear list of the ones that cannot be carried out due to higher national, political, economic or environmental interests.
I’m not beating drums for a union uprising. I’m calling attention about the responsibility and the right we have to incorporate ourselves with a country conscience to the debate of the society we want to build. The shot, if you want to get it right, has to hit the center of the target.
*The author is a biologist, with a master’s in International Relations and a diploma in Foreign Trade. He is co-founder of AUGE, a business consultancy enterprise.