continental American monopoly on Cuba-ready cards—
plastic credit is worthless, and ATMs barely exist.
The embargo is like an argument that’s been going on for
so long, nobody remembers anymore how or why it started.
Initially, under President Eisenhower, it banned only sugar
imports. After Cuba responded by confscating the assets of U.S.
companies, it was broadened to cover nearly all trade between
the nations. Soon it morphed into a Cold War weapon to punish
Castro for aligning with the Soviet Union, and supporting com-munist-led insurgencies in Nicaragua and Angola. Cuba’s dismal record on human rights didn’t help.
But attitudes toward the embargo have changed. In a CBS
News/New York Times poll conducted on the eve of Obama’s
Cuba visit, more than half of Americans ( 55 percent) said they
supported doing away with it. A more recent Florida International University poll of Cuban Americans living in Miami–
Dade County—traditionally ground zero for the no-compromise
camp—found an even bigger majority who would be happy at
this point to move on. But we’re still stuck.
Washington, D.C., attorney Robert Muse has been advis-
ing U.S. companies on Cuba for 25 years. He says that lifting
the embargo is up to the United States. He equates Cuba’s
position to that of an abused wife whose husband says he’ll
stop beating her if she’ll start putting dinner on the table:
“Her attitude, quite rightly, is, ‘It’s you attacking me! You
have to stop. Then we can have normal relations.’ ”
If and when the embargo is lifted, American companies
need to remember what kind of market they’re dealing with.
Cuba indeed dominates the Caribbean, by landmass (it’s
roughly the size of Virginia) and by population ( 11. 3 million).
But it’s poor. The average state salary is $25 a month. In
2010, according to the CIA’s latest estimate, its gross domes-
tic product per capita was $10,200, one rung up on the world
ladder from Swaziland’s. That’s partly why John Kavulich,
longtime head of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Coun-
cil, sees “a lot of inspiration and aspiration chasing very little
reality” in Cuba. Americans assume, not unreasonably, that
Cubans “need everything, they want everything, and they put
a period there,” Kavulich says. “But there’s a next sentence:
Do they have the resources to purchase everything? Dubai
HOME WARD BOUND
Saul Berenthal, a Cuban émigré based in Raleigh, North Carolina, was supposed to be the frst
86 - INC. - FEBRUARY 2017
American entrepreneur to build a factory in Cuba—until his company got caught in political crossfre.