United States Cuba Policy & Business Blog

Monday, November 2, 2009

International Trade Fair in Havana Begins

The flights were full of American businessmen on their way to attend and participate in the Fair which begins today. As usual, the same conversations come up: How much business is going to get done? What do you think will happen when travel restrictions are lifted for everyone? When is the embargo going to end? Hey why does it cost so much to make a telephone call to Cuba? Now that one opened a discussion and then an "ah-- now I understand" from the businessman. U.S. telecom companies are frustrated because business cannot get conducted reasonably. Telecom business with Cuba cannot proceed because Cuba is on the Terror List, which triggers the legal minefield that makes any deals unlikely and drives up the cost of telephone calls to a dollar per minute.

A discussion arose on what Cuba should be doing now to make progress. I observed, as have many, - there is much Cuba should do and the pathway of conditionality- quid pro quo approaches does not work. Rather, the pathway to better and fruitful negotiations lie first in improving the atmosphere itself to have those conversations. And there are things Cuba can do to improve the situation for its people who live on the island and who reside abroad without sacrificing its sovereignty. The high costs associated with travel and communication should be addressed by both sides. These are the smaller steps each side should be taking as was suggested by Governor Bill Richardson on his August trip to Havana. Flowers will grow in a garden, not in a desert. Both sides need to do their part to till and fertilize the garden of reconcilation that is demanded by the people of both countries. Humility and courage will triumph over arrogance and ignorance eventually and always. - TM