Longtime Cuban leader Fidel Castro passed away at the age of 90 recently after governing the island for nearly 50 years before his brother, Raúl, officially took the reins in 2008. Cuba’s relations with USA were slowly opening up under Obama’s administration after a long embargo on trade between the two countries. Ernesto Baron, a regional consultant for USA Rice, believes that there may be softening of ‘not-while-Castro-is-alive’ approach of some of the hardliners in Congress, which would potentially allow for a path forward. But at the end of the day, Raúl was still a Castro who had been in power for the last decade, so any short-term change within Cuba was unlikely. Baron also raised the issue of the incoming Trump administration, whose position and direction of action have yet to be confirmed. The President-elect has named Mauricio Claver-Carone, a vocal pro-embargo lobbyist, to work on the transition team tasked with the selection of high profile positions within the U.S. Department of the Treasury that has jurisdiction over trade with Cuba. Claver-Carone recently rescinded his lobbying registration for the Cuba Democracy Advocates after being named to the transition team.
Ben Mosely, USA Rice vice president of government affairs, said, “If Claver-Carone appointment to the Treasury Department’s transition is any indication of the direction the Trump administration is headed, we’re going to have our work cut out for us to maintain the positive actions in Cuba taken under the Obama Administration and to persuade Congress to remove the financing barriers for products like U.S.-grown rice.” Mosely added, “As the Cabinet is named and appointees start to come into place over the next several weeks we’ll have a better idea of what direction the next administration is headed with regard to the U.S.-Cuba relationship.” Many are still wondering, especially in Miami where there is a considerable American-Cuban population, what this would mean for U.S.-Cuba relations moving forward and whether longtime hold-outs in Congress will begin to slowly budge.