A US delegation comprised of business leaders landed in the Cuban capital on Thursday to explore possibilities of “civilised relations” between the two countries.
For the first time in over 10 years, a delegation from the US Chamber of Commerce visited the Communist island in the Caribbean. The delegation, which included US Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue, visited the country in order to assess the economic changes that have occurred under Cuban President Raul Castro’s reign.
The trip was scrutinized by the Cuban community in the US citing human rights abuses and statewide censorship as important factors for continuing the trade embargo. “Such conditions hardly seem an attractive opportunity for any responsible business leader,” Cuban-American Senator Robert Menendez told AP news agency.
The US implemented a trade embargo in 1960 following the deposition of former President Fulgencio Batista who was largely seen as an American ally.
Donohue viewed the visit as a positive affirmation of the economic changes occurring on the ground. “The more Cuba can do to demonstrate its commitment to reform, and the more it can do to address and resolve disputes in our relations, the better the prospects will be for changes in US policy,” Donohue said in front of Foreign Investment Minister Rodrigo Malmierca during a speech at the University of Havana.
In 2008, former President and Communist revolutionary Fidel Castro stepped down as Cuba’s leader citing serious health issues. His brother, Raul Castro, was subsequently voted into power by the country’s legislative parliament on 24 February, 2008. Raul’s incumbency has been characterised by structural adjustments to the country’s centralised economy and has paved the way for a small-but-promising private sector.
The visit comes at a time when both countries are seeking to establish amicable ties following years of strained relations largely seen by potential US investors as an archaic byproduct of the Cold War.