I remember Mr. John Parke Wright at the Jose Martí international airport in Havana, Cuba. We were returning from one of the FIHAV (a renowned Havana business fair ) which every year reunites thousands of foreign companies with Cuban buyers. Wright had become visibly upset with the poor reception of his offers by island officials .
It is not easy to do businesses with Cuba and, given the economic embargo imposed on the island for almost 50 years, any negotiation is extremely complicated. Commitments between the parts, by twisted bureaucratic mentalities on both sides don't take into consideration the level of distrust the Cuban people has on anything that comes from the enemy side.
Mr. Wright canalized his restlessness and, was able to sell thousands of heads of cattle to the island. And, in last Friday meeting he made a call to other Miami business men to travel with well defined intention and, to help restore the natural relations between neighbors. We are not going there to support the Government but, to be with family and friends and, to make a difference.
The meeting where Wright spoke was sponsored by the Foundation for the Normalization of Relations between the United States and Cuba. This organization has tried fruitlessly in the last four years to reach what its pretentious name preaches. All this, with the participation of the Jewish Charter company for Cuba in Miami. This company, Xael and, the political influence of the also Jewish Alianza Martiana (José Martí Alliance), whose executives are all members of the Board of directors of this institution.
Nevertheless, the reality is different. Cuba has, for more than ten years, maintained a policy of good neighbor, buying merchandise at prices greater than world-wide market demands just to get the necessary merchandise for the feeding and sustenance of its own people. A people harassed by their powerful neighbor's economic embargo. Spending in merchandise, transportation &, late fees payments of more than $800 million dollars annually (coincidentally, the same number that the country collects for payments from the Cuban-American community by concept of passports, proceedings and trips to the island).
This policy is finished because, while one side's effort was to restore the normality of the relations with open economic negotiations, experience determined that a lesser price and, with more considerate partners, better businesses could be done. While, meantime the US and their appointed administrations increased the travel restrictions and ,the aggressiveness of their campaigns.
Another interesting intervention came from Mr. John McAuliff, of the Fund for Peace and Reconciliation of New York. McAuliff , a civil rights veteran who said: Cubans do not control the American foreign policy but they are actively engaged in it, talking about the traditional exile community mainly in Miami, and he claimed that to open travel would make the embargo will fail…
In fact it is not materially possible to raise the travel restrictions and, hope that the Holy Ghost will restore a normal flow of American tourism to Cuba. As much as the Cubans and the Obama Administration know there is neither the infrastructure nor, the resources to receive a million additional tourists. In fact, even a fourth of that would be impossible without real consequences in the quality of the attention and its health.
With a ferocious embargo that fines those who dare to move a cent in businesses with Cuba outside the control of the American bureaucracy, is not possible to develop the infrastructure in hotels, rental cars, restaurants and so many of the thousands of details which are implied in the complex machinery of tourism, maintained today by the effort and sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of professionals in the island.
The normality of the relations between both countries has to come through the mutual respect and, the reestablishment of contacts between Governments. It is the only way to stop the illusions that interference and, trips with an intention can influenced the Cuban society and, the destiny of its people. It entails forgetting the greed of some and, focusing resources on the true solution of the problem: lifting the embargo.