Esther Vicente, Ambassador Howard Leach, Deputy Secretary Anne Veneman
SAN FRANCISCO, CA (4/22/23) - by: Jose Ricardo G. Bondoc
A Cuban diplomatic delegation came to San Francisco to meet with local political and financial leaders to present investment and economic possibilities for not just San Francisco, but specifically to the Bayview-Hunters’ Point area of San Francisco. First Secretary Javier Levy Hernandez, Embassy of the Republic of Cuba, noted, “There is a common history between the Cuban and African-American communities that have existed since the Revolution. We share a common history of the experience of shared racism and social exclusion….” Hernandez noted the initial meeting of Fidel Castro and Malcolm X in Harlem in the 1960s.
The most significant trade and exhibition event in Cuba is an important meeting point for foreign and Cuban business people, including all sectors of the Cuban economy. Last November, the San Francisco African American Chamber of Commerce led a delegation to the 38th Festival International Havana. Top level delegations headed by ministers and senior government officials were in attendance.
Esther A. Vicente, CEO, Caribbean Basin Import/Export and Founder of the Caribbean Basin Institute for Education and Culture (CBIEC) spoke on the trade conference last November and the history of the meeting to place the event into a historical and political context.
Alpha Buie, a business owner in San Francisco who was part of the local delegation with the San Francisco African-American Chamber of Commerce, noted, “The warmth and receptiveness of the culture were terrific; I saw new business opportunities firsthand.
Brigette LeBlanc, Vice Chairwoman of the Board who was also part of the delegation, noted international business is not new with the Chamber; the U.S. is long overdue in normalizing relations with Cuba. Economic opportunities exist for Americans and the Cuban people; removing the embargo opens the door for American business. We are ready!
This came as six weeks ago (3/6), in Washington D.C., Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jerry Moran (R K.S.), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Roger Marshall (R-KS), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to lift the Cuba trade embargo. The Freedom to Export to Cuba Act would eliminate legal barriers preventing Americans from doing business in Cuba and create new economic opportunities by boosting U.S. exports and allowing Cubans greater access to American goods. The legislation repeals key provisions of existing laws that block Americans from doing business in Cuba but keeps in place rules that address human rights or property claims against the Cuban government.
“I have long pushed to reform our relationship with Cuba, which for decades has been defined by conflicts of the past instead of looking toward the future,” said Klobuchar. “By ending the trade embargo with Cuba once and for all, our bipartisan legislation will turn the page on the failed policy of isolation while creating a new export market and generating economic opportunities for American businesses.”
“The unilateral trade embargo on Cuba blocks our farmers, ranchers, and manufacturers from selling into a market only 90 miles from our shoreline, while foreign competitors benefit at our expense,” said Moran. “This legislation will expand market opportunities for U.S. producers by allowing them to compete on a level playing field with other countries. It is time to amend our laws to give U.S. producers fair access to market to consumers in Cuba.”
“I’m proud to sign onto the Freedom to Export to Cuba Act. The United States needs to boost our economic opportunities and increase market access for American-made goods. Repealing the current legal restrictions and trade embargo on Cuba allows for Kansas farmers, ranchers and manufacturers to expand their businesses to Cuba and opens the door to a large export market while leaving in place measures to address human rights abuses,” said Marshall.
The Freedom to Export to Cuba Act repeals the current legal restrictions against doing business with Cuba, including the original 1961 authorization for establishing the trade embargo; subsequent laws that required enforcement of the blockade; and other restrictive statutes that prohibit transactions between U.S.-owned or controlled firms and Cuba, and limitations on direct shipping between U.S. and Cuban ports.
Noting the booming biotech industry, Hernandez stated, “46% of Californians have diabetes, primarily in communities of color, and yet we have developed a drug to prevent the amputation of limbs since 2016. We have developed a vaccine for lung cancer, and we would certainly like to share these developments with the world. We even developed our vaccine for COVID during the pandemic. We want to do business with those most affected….”
In closing, Javier stated, “For the past 64 years, we have been talking and trying to reach out to government leaders to achieve some common ground. The ball is now in your court.
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