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During his time serving as the 35th U.S. Secretary of Commerce under the George W. Bush Administration, Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice published a report in 2006 on the president's Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba (CAFC), which proposed new regulations to ensure that “the Castro regime’s succession strategy does not succeed.”
Nearly a decade later, Secretary Gutierrez took stock of the many ways in which the U.S.-Cuba relationship is evolving at an event I co-hosted Monday with Georgetown University on “Cuba in Transition.” The former secretary, who is a leader in the Cuban-American community and a co-chair at Albright Stonebridge Group, said that with regard to the changes in Cuba and in the bilateral relationship, we “have to be patient … [but] I am lucky to be living in a time of change and hope for Cubans living on the island.”
Indeed, change is afoot.
In 1999, Tom Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, visited Havana and called for a new chapter in U.S.-Cuba relations. While we may have had to wait another 15 years to see action on that front, it appears that the new chapter is beginning to unfold.
With the December 17, 2014, simultaneous press conference by Presidents Obama and Castro, accompanied by further reforms in both countries since that date, including ongoing negotiations to restore diplomatic relations, progress is happening — even if not as quickly as we might like.
For their part, Cuba is changing some of its economic policies, and its private sector is growing.
The United State has revised some of its restrictions and most recently advanced the process to remove Cuba from the State Sponsor of Terror list.
There is a more to do — on both sides — and we at the Chamber are going to continue to advocate for reform.
We will push for the Cubans to do all that is possible to advance the domestic reforms they highlighted in the U.S. Chamber’s recent meeting with President Raul Castro to empower the Cuban private sector.
In the United States, we will continue to be active on the Hill, helping to build a pragmatic conversation.
And we will also continue to work with the U.S. administration to find more ways to help U.S. companies engage with Cuban citizens and advance the ideas and power of Free Enterprise.
The time is now to begin a new chapter in U.S.-Cuban relations.