once and for all. “Where the embargo began is where the
embargo should end: With a resolution of the certified
claims,” Muse says.
After the Cuban government derailed Berenthal’s factory
plans, he was discouraged but not devastated. He understands
why his company, in which he and Clemmons have invested
$5 million, was used as a political pawn: Cuba wants the
embargo gone; as long as it remains in effect, Cuba has little
incentive to grant piecemeal exceptions that reduce the
pressure on Congress to demolish it once and for all. At least,
that’s the best explanation he or anyone else can come up with
to justify what happened.
So Berenthal and Clemmons have shifted plans. Now
they’re building tractors for export at a factory in Paint
Rock, Alabama. Clemmons, the more frustrated of the two,
is focusing his energy on selling them to other markets—small
farmers in Australia, Ethiopia, and Peru. Meanwhile, Beren-
thal’s contacts at Mariel have told him, “Commercialize your
tractor and your products, and bring them to Cuba,” and he’s
taking them at their word. Cleber’s new business model
may in the end be more lucrative, albeit less transformational
for Cuba than Berenthal had hoped for.
Still, there’s one more wild card. Cuba’s current president,
Fidel’s brother Raúl Castro, is scheduled to end his term
in 2018. “In my opinion,” says Berenthal, “this will trigger
the final removal of the embargo.” Castro’s likely successor,
Miguel Díaz-Canel, was born nine months before the
revolution. If there’s going to be real change—generational
change—in U.S.-Cuba relations, that’ll be the turning point.
“I hope others will take the long view and continue the efforts
to bring the two countries together through commerce,”
Berenthal says. He understands, as best as anyone can, how
it works in Cuba. That things happen when they happen. But,
eventually, they do happen.
DAVID WHITFORD is an Inc. editor-at-large.
If Cuba is to embrace capitalism, it will be on socialist terms— to protect what Cubans consider the lasting achievements of the revolution.
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