The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce updated its report on business opportunities in a post-Castro Cuba, issuing a road map for investments and trade today more than a decade after its first ‘‘waiting for Fidel to fall’’ study.
There were few surprises in the report, as Pedro Freyre, co-chairman of the Cuba Committee, announced its conclusion that Miami would be the ‘‘logical, focus point’’ for renewed trade with a post-embargo Cuba. One of the main purposes of the study is to provide the local business community with an understanding of the implications of a ‘‘free’’ Cuba—both opportunities and challenges.
But the meeting, where the audience of executives, diplomats and chamber representatives had only one question for a panel of speakers, also delved into the challenges facing South Florida and briefly touched on the hot-button issue of whether Cuba—and anxious Cuban-Americans—faced a transition or succession in the future.
This is the question over whether the passing of President Fidel Castro would bring about an abrupt transition to democracy—much like the collapse of the Soviet government or the Berlin Wall—or would be followed by a succession, with some continuity of Castro-created institutions as his brother Raul or some other Communist Party-bred leaders stepped into power.
The Miami report came just a few weeks after President Bush’s Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, established in October, recommended some policy changes to spur freedom on the island, such as restricting who may receive the estimated $1.2 billion in remittances sent by Cuban-Americans.
In the report, Secretary of State Colin Powell called any post-Castro succession that allowed the regime to retain its hold on power as “completely contrary to the hemisphere’s commitment to freedom.’‘
But Damian Fernandez, director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University, said solely focusing on a transition without considering the holdover of almost 50 years of ‘‘cradle-to-grave welfare’’ was possibly ‘‘wishful thinking’’ on the part of policymakers.
‘‘There is a great dissonance between what the academic community thinks and what the policymakers think,’’ said Fernandez, a panelist at the morning meeting at the Hotel Inter-Continental.
‘‘We have to face the reality that levels of continuity will stay in place,’’ Fernandez said.
Also speaking besides Fernandez and Freyre, an attorney for Akerman Senterfitt, were Dennis K. Hays, a former State Department official and now managing director of the global and government affairs practice in Washington for Tew Cardenas, a Miami law firm; and Manuel Lasaga, president of StratInfo, a Miami economics and financial consulting firm.