Published On: Thu, Dec 8th, 2016

Cuban entrepreneurs urge Trump to maintain US-Cuba engagement

trumpWASHINGTON - More than 100 Cuban small business owners sent a letter to US President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday urging him to continue President Barack Obama’s engagement with Havana, despite Trump’s threat to end rapprochement with the communist-ruled island.

The appeal to Trump from Cuba's fledgling private sector underscored increased uncertainty about future relations between the two countries, given his vow to halt what he called Obama’s “deal” with Havana unless it agreed to new terms with Washington, Reuters reported.

Obama administration officials, seeking to further cement changes before Trump takes office on January 20, were due to hold talks with Cuban counterparts in Havana on Wednesday. It was the first such meeting since the election of Trump and the death of Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro.

“As a successful businessman, we’re confident that you understand the importance of economic engagement between nations,” the Cuban entrepreneurs wrote to Trump.

“Additional measures to increase travel, trade and investment … will benefit our companies, the Cuban people and US national interests,” they wrote. “We look forward to taking advantage of any openings that your administration makes to the Cuban private sector and the Cuban economy as a whole.”

A small, bipartisan group of US lawmakers also planned to hold a news conference in Washington, DC, to urge Congress to lift the half-century-old US economic embargo on Cuba. Several Cuban entrepreneurs who were due to participate were expected to ask Trump not to reverse the thaw in relations.

The letter was signed by startup companies and small-scale entrepreneurs. They included family-owned restaurants, high-tech firms, car services and hair salons.

The Obama administration has pressed for additional US business deals in Cuba in hopes of making detente irreversible. US businesses are looking to persuade Trump to drop his threats to cancel Obama’s opening, a reversal they fear could cost them hundreds of millions of dollars.

Since ties were restored with Cuba, Obama has used executive actions to ease some business and travel restrictions, though the Republican-controlled Congress has resisted removing the broader US embargo.

Trump has said that Obama should have cut a "better deal”, echoing critics who have said that Cuba was given too many concessions. At an election campaign rally in Miami, Trump said he would seek to reverse Obama's moves unless Cuba allowed greater freedom. The Cuban government has so far mostly refrained from commenting on Trump's statements.

US supporters of detente have said it is improving Cubans' lives while opening cracks in the socialist system.

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