Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 10th 2014 Contents Dade County, where they predominate, voted
for the president in 2012, many more than
in the previous election, even after he eased
policy toward Cuba. If former Governor
Charlie Crist, a Republican-turned-Democrat
who is running for a second turn and sup-
ports lifting the embargo, wins in November,
it will help their cause.
Even so, the old guard cares more about
keeping the embargo than younger Cuban-
Americans do about getting rid of it. Most
Cuban-American congressmen in Washing-
ton remain avid backers of it. Mauricio
Claver-Carone, who heads a pro-embargo
lobbying group, argues that all foreign invest-
ment still goes to monopolies run by the
Castro regime, which helps prop it up.
The stakes have been raised by the jailing
of Alan Gross, an American citizen convicted
in Cuba of smuggling communications
equipment to dissidents. Few believe that
the Obama administration would risk a bold
move without his release.
The embargo s days nonetheless are num-
bered, not least because Raul Castro, the
82-year-old president, and his 87-year-old
brother Fidel will not live for ever. In the
meantime it increasingly seems like a relic,
as outdated as the Castros Cuba.
@2014 The Economist Newspaper Ltd. Dis-
tributed by the New York Times Syndicate
At the outset of Tom Wolfe s latest novel,
Back to Blood, the muscled hero, a 25-
year-old Cuban-American cop called
Nestor Camacho, seethes when his fat
and disdainful Americano colleagues
stereotype him as a Cuban. He has never set eyes on
the island, he says. His Spanish is poor. At home his
parents hatred of Fidel Castro flies over his head.
His world revolves around Miami, not Cuba.
Unsurprisingly, the book is not universally liked in
Miami -- it skewers everyone, from Anglos to Cubans
to Haitians to Russians. In at least one respect, though,
it is spot on. Younger Cuban-Americans are less
obsessed with Cuba than their exiled elders. Like
other Americans, pollsters say, they now think more
pragmatically. Cuba is not the only voting issue that
they care about.
In fact, they are more likely to be pouring money
into Cuba than shunning it. Remittances, as well as
travel, have risen since President Barack Obama eased
restrictions in 2009 and 2011. Much of the money
has found its way into restaurants, known as paladares,
hairdressers or other small businesses run by relatives
in Cuba. That has given Cuban-Americans an increas-
ing, albeit hidden, stake in the island s economic
The laws of both the United States and Cuba have
forbidden such money to be treated as investment.
On March 29, however, Cuba s parliament approved
a new foreign-investment law that, for the first time,
allows Cubans living abroad to invest in some enter-
prises; provided, according to Foreign Trade Minister
Rodrigo Malmierca, that they are not part of the
"Miami terrorist mafia." The aim is to raise foreign
investment in Cuba to about US$2.5 billion a year.
Currently, Cuban economists say that the stock is $5
billion at most.
The law, which updates a faulty 1995 one, is still
patchy, says Pavel Vidal, a Cuban economist living in
Colombia. It offers generous tax breaks of eight years
for new investments. However, it requires employers
to hire workers via state employment agencies that
charge---and keep---hard currency, vastly inflating the
cost of labor. It enhances the right to establish fully
owned foreign businesses, although existing private
firms, such as paladares, still are forbidden from taking
foreign capital. Much, including whether or not Cuban-
Americans can invest, will depend on how the gov-
ernment implements the law.
"It s still very discretionary," Vidal says.
Despite their failings, Cuba s new rules are a reminder
of how inflexible United States law remains. Because
of the 53-year-old embargo against Cuba, some Cuban-
Americans fear that they will be left behind as investors
from Brazil, China, Europe and Russia move in. Already
Tampa, on Florida s west coast, is vying for a greater
share of Cuban business when the embargo is lift-
"Every day we re missing opportunity," says Bob
Rohrlack, head of the Greater Tampa Chamber of
In Miami people talk of a tipping point. Alberto
Ibarguen, a former publisher of The Miami Herald,
says that demographic trends that began decades ago
finally have softened the mood toward Cuba, though
"absolutely not" toward the Castro regime.
If American restrictions on all tourism to the island
were lifted, he says, "you d get a couple of letters to
Some Miami Cubans have managed to squeeze
through cracks in the embargo. Hugo Cancio, who
left the island in the Mariel boatlift of 1980, owns a
Web site and magazine---On Cuba, written mostly by
Cubans---which plays down repressiveness and plays
up commerce and culture. He has a newsroom in
Havana but, despite his entreaties, American law for-
bids him from paying its staff.
Tony Zamora, a semiretired Miami lawyer who in
Cuba was jailed for taking part in the 1961 Bay of
Pigs invasion, has also recast himself as a promoter
of investment in the island. After 40 trips to Cuba,
he calls the embargo "almost a total failure."
Many Cuban-Americans put their faith in Obama
to soften the embargo, even if Congress will not lift
it. They note that more than 60 per cent of Miami-
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Strait talk about
investment in Cuba
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