Cuba: A Time Such as Now…
By George L. San Jose President & COO of The San Jose Network Ltd.
When I think of the U.S.-Cuban relationship I imagine two childhood best friends who once had a quarrel. They were neighbors, loved each other dearly, their lives where intertwined in the most intricate ways, and one could not imagine life without the other. They were always in each other’s homes and played in the same backyard.
Then one day [about fifty-five years ago] they quarreled, pride got in the way, and they stopped talking with one another. They confiscated each other’s toys and each went to play in their own backyards with deep wounds in their hearts. Anyone who has children understands how these quarrels happen. And in the same way this very much happened to the United States and Cuba, although few of us are old enough to remember their happier times as “besties”.
Let me state that I certainly would never want to simplify the layers of complexity of U.S.-Cuban relations as events in this troubled history resulted in thousands of innocent lives lost with much pain and suffering on both sides.
It is, however, important that we, as business leaders, understand the depth of the past relationship only to draw from it the learning for what is to come. A historical step has been taken for a new relationship to emerge between these two great countries. Like Israel and Judah, East Germany and West Germany, reconciliation and full integration of its people as one family, and again as best friends, is irreversible and unstoppable—this time living in two houses.
All that remains is to have in place a legal system of commerce between our two countries and in concurrence a commerce revolution within the Cuban government to set a transparent legal framework for commerce to emerge. This will be necessary not only for its own people but for the hundreds of small foreign businesses that want to invest in Cuba and are currently not able to do so under the present laws.
It is also important to note that small businesses are the economic engine of growth, jobs and prosperity for any country. Sixty percent of the Cuban population is currently between the ages of 15-54—a formidable work force. From the direct contact we have had with Cubans professionals recently, I can tell you that they are very well prepared educationally and intellectually to forge a new future… but most importantly they have their hearts open to learn, change, adapt, and contribute to their country.
Give this generation of Cubans a legal, transparent framework to do commerce and they will not only transform their country, but they will laydown the foundation and facilitate the stage for the big industrial foreign investments to roll in to Cuba. It is entrepreneurship and consumer demand that creates big business, not the other way around.
So while progress is simmering in the background, today is the ideal time for U.S. companies to act proactively: commission needed research, develop upside feasibility studies, and commence the process to get their brands and enterprises registered and their permits applied for prior to the floodgates of commerce opening, as this too is irreversible and unstoppable.
Free commerce and the hope of prosperity are powerful motivators and the catalyst needed for a time such as now.