http://havanajournal.com/business/entry/will-havana-become-the-hong-kong-of-the-caribbean/

HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Business

Will Havana become the Hong Kong of the Caribbean?

Posted July 23, 2008 by publisher in Cuba Business.
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By Matthew Clark | Christian Science Monitor

Monitor staff photographer Alfredo Sosa and staff writer Matthew Clark show how Cubans try to make ends meet.

John Parke Wright wants to provide Florida’s best restaurants with the finest steaks around, and he wants to do it from a ranch in Cuba.

“I’ve got a plan,” says the sixth-generation Floridan whose ancestors were pioneers of the once-thriving Havana-Tampa trade route. “I’m ready to go.”

Cuba, on the other hand, is not quite ready for him. But could it be soon?

Mr. Wright, a rancher, is one of many longtime Cuba watchers who agree that Raúl Castro is following the “China model” of managed movement toward a free market economy.

Click on the photo for a great video about life in Cuba. Monitor staff photographer Alfredo Sosa and staff writer Matthew Clark show how Cubans try to make ends meet.

He would know.

He visits Cuba frequently, finessing close ties with the Castro government in order to push for any small trade openings between the island nation and the US. He was also one of the first businessmen to open up trade with China 30 years ago when Chinese Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping began his famous economic reforms to that country’s communist economy. At the time, reformers surrounding Mr. Deng wanted China to be “a little more like [capitalist] Hong Kong and not Hong Kong to become more like China,” Wright says.

Wright compares Raúl to the practical Deng, saying Raúl wants to have Cuba be a little more like Florida. “Raúl’s goal is to modernize and to normalize trade relations with the US. If we normalize relations now, it’ll be a whole new world. Havana will be the Hong Kong of the Caribbean.

“From 1860 to 1960, Cuba had some of the best land for cattle in the Western hemisphere,” says Wright. In 1960, Cuba had about 6 million people and 2 million cattle, but now has only 2 million cattle for 12 million people, he explains.

“There’s a tremendous need to restock Cuba’s ranches, and the opportunity has to be given to people like me,” he says, adding that he’d start out by sending 3,000 head of cattle, tractors, trucks, and irrigation equipment to Cuba as soon as the two nations adjust their policies to allow for that.

Wright says he’s “very enthused” by what he calls “a new business spirit” in Cuba, but adds that “the [US trade embargo] has created a situation in Cuba where an entire generation thinks we’re out to starve them. If we open up trade and travel, it’ll change attitudes left, right, and center in Havana.”

“It’ll take a whole new administration with a whole new attitude,” he says. “The ball is clearly in the US court.”

“There are too many politicians in the decision making process – on both sides – and not enough statesmen,” he says. “The question is: Who will take the high road and normalize relations?”

Member Comments

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On July 23, 2008, abh wrote:

re: the last sentence of the article—
Good question!

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On July 24, 2008, Mako wrote:

My answer ..... Obama
McCain is a “Mini-Me” to Bush.

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On July 24, 2008, abh wrote:

Let’s hope.  I have to say, after it all, I still find it a little hard to believe that relations will be normalized while the Castros are still alive, or at least perceived to be in charge.  However, Raul definitely seems open to some sort of diplomacy or negotiation, and Obama claims he is also willing to have some kind of meetings. 
An Obama presidency would definitely usher in a new era, where Obama’s motto of “Change” might be more popular among the Cuban people than their leaders wink

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On July 24, 2008, manfredz wrote:

of course we can all only postulate but here’s my opinions:
I think the only dramatic outcome of an OBama and Raol meeting (don’t expect it to be face to face but through representatives) is the fact that it happens.
Just like I don’t think anything dramatic would come out of it.  But am sure one thing that would come up that both can agree on…. If they strive to improve relations the US will not want to see the whole Cuban population on its doorstep and Raol won’t want to see all the Maimi Cubans on his doorstep.  Maybe that can give them a starting point.

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On July 25, 2008, edward wrote:

I think we’re actually witnessing an evolution right now, we’re in the midst of it. EG..how many adjustments by Raul as the publisher posted since Fidel went upstairs?, Raul is following closely the Chinese model, they are a powerhouse economically, they’ve retained their socialist principles, Cuba has huge amounts of natural resources, the Cuban people are entrepernerial (spelling) in spirit. Raul’s not stupid.

Obama’s gonna change america, for the better,  he’s also going to encourage dialogue with Cuba…it’s a win win situation. Just don’t mess with the socialist ideology. Let Cuba choose it’s own path.

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On July 25, 2008, edward wrote:

And any way, instead of being sat over the water in the US, you cuban americans should be bloody proud of your country and proud of the fact that your country has stood firm against all the crap that’s been thrown around.

Think about it, what’s wrong with standing up for the little guy, plus, you know that your island has style and class by the ton. Cuba reminds me of my country, England. Island nation, geographically small but big hitters with big ideas. Your country is at the beginning of big things.

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On July 30, 2008, Mako wrote:

If Obama wins , you will see a gradual but complete lifting of the archaeic embargo. US and Cuban relations will enter an eintirely new phase,. Obama does not want to recolonialize Cuba and have the US run rough shod over the Island, Obama is the best leader the US has had in many years and is sensative to issues that were handled clumsily by past US presidents. Helms -Burton will be gonwe with in 6-9 months. The good news is he is leading in all the polls and McCain is starting to run desperate negative , mean spirited ads. Obama has also pledges getting all US troops out of Iraq in 16 months. He was the ONLY presidential candidiate who was against the war in the very beginning. Right now an average Obama is leading John W MsBush in the polls 48% - 42%. But we still have a while to go . Pray for Obama

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On July 31, 2008, YoungCuban wrote:

The more things change,the more things stay the same.

Neither side would ever want to bury the hatchet as chaos would run ramped all over Cuba and in the US.

I think the last thing the US wants is for Cubans to be able to travel freely to the US and the last thing Cuba wants is to have millions of Americans freely visitng Cuba.

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On July 31, 2008, abh wrote:

YoungCuban,
I think there is definitely legitimacy to your argument.  The last thing the U.S. needs right now is an exodus of people coming to Florida on boats…on the other hand if you look at the number of “refugees” who’ve come over the last 10 or 15 years, I think some argue this is basically an exodus now.  It’s an interesting issue, I think that when Bush was saying the U.S. prefers “freedom over stability” many more knowledgeable people knew better. 
HOWEVER, it is very difficult for me to imagine that in the 21st century the U.S. is going to keep Cuba blockaded under the embargo.  I think change on both sides will be gradual.  I don’t expect the embargo to be completely lifted by the time Raul moves on, but I do expect some significant holes to be punched in it.
Also, there would definitely be security concerns among the Cuban government if there was a huge wave of American “tourists”, especially Cuban Americans, coming to visit.  HOWEVER, I am pretty sure the Cubans want to see legitimate tourists coming.  The tourism sector would benefit hugely and they need that sector badly.
I would argue that both contries would benefit by having good relations, which would include an immigration policy that the U.S. could limit to get rid of the wet foot dry foot, which privately must rankle many Republicans at least.

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On July 31, 2008, publisher wrote:

Invest in shipping, cruises and airlines.

People and goods going in and out of Cuba will be amazing.

Hundreds of thousands will rush in and hundreds of thousands will rush out, each seeing opportunities on the other side of the Florida Straits.

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On August 03, 2008, Mako wrote:

Chances of USA and Mexico becoming socialist are   2… Slim and none !  You will see massive change with Obama as president ; but not socialsim