Senator Patrick Leahy Remarks News Conference With Cuban Entrepreneurs Russell Senate Office Building

I want to thank the representatives of the Cuban private business community who are here.  This is an all too rare opportunity for Members of Congress and the news media to hear directly from people like you, and we greatly appreciate you coming all this way.

Since President Obama and President Raul Castro re-established diplomatic relations we have seen what many would describe as remarkable changes between the United States and Cuba. 

Critics of the new opening continually say that the only Cubans who have benefited are Raul Castro and the Cuban military. 

The Cuban government has benefited, that is unavoidable.  It happens in any country with state-owned enterprises with which we have diplomatic and commercial relations, of which there are many. 

But it is false and misleading to say that they alone have benefited.  In fact, the Cuban people, particularly Cuban entrepreneurs, have benefited and so have the American people.  And they overwhelmingly want this opening to continue.

Our governments have engaged in discussions on a wide range of topics, from resuming regular mail service to law enforcement cooperation to agricultural exports.  United States cruise ships and regular airline service has resumed.  Cultural and educational visits are increasing. 

Cuban private businesses, as we will hear today, are benefiting directly from the new opening with the United States.  They will benefit even more when the U.S. embargo – a failed, self-defeating, vindictive policy if there ever was one – is finally ended.  Those who continue to defend the embargo should listen to these people.  I hope President-elect Trump will listen to them.

We have a long way to go, but this is what the people of both countries want, and I am convinced that there is no going back. 

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