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Washington, D.C. – Reps. Tom Emmer (R-MN), Kathy Castor (D-FL), Rick Crawford (R-AR) and Barbara Lee (D-CA) led a letter, along with more than a dozen of their colleagues from the Cuba Working Group, to President-elect Trump calling for the continued normalization of trade relations with Cuba and to empower the Cuban people. The Cuba Working Group was established to promote increased trade, travel and investment in Cuba, to open new markets, create jobs in both countries, promote human rights and improve the security posture of the United States.

“The recent death of Fidel Castro represents a dawn of a new era in Cuban leadership and the United States must use this time to help chart a new course for Cuba’s future,” said Emmer. “I look forward to working with President-elect Trump to continue our efforts in Congress to empower the Cuban people, facilitate economic reforms, promote the expansion of civil and religious liberties, and strengthen our regional and national security abroad.”

“Cuban families and small business owners are eager to accelerate economic and human rights reforms and America must continue to support them,” said Castor. “The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Cuba and greater engagement will encourage Cuba to go farther and faster. Slamming the door shut at this point in time would be disastrous. Instead, we should meet the challenge of better diplomatic relations, economic opportunities for Cubans and Americans, expanded travel, and support for the dignity of the Cuban people.

“I’ve seen the positive changes already taking place in Cuba’s economy and its people, change that Fidel’s recent passing will hasten,” said Crawford. “If the United States wants to prevent nations like China from dominating Cuba’s future, then we do need to consider ways to capitalize on those changes, for both national security and economic reasons. I strongly encourage the incoming administration to consider incrementally reforming our relationship with Cuba in a way that supports American businesses and aids the Cuban people.”

“Over the past two years, we have made tremendous progress in ending our counterproductive Cold War policies toward Cuba,” said Lee. “For the first time in half a century, we have the opportunity to tap into new markets and productively address the disagreements between our two nations. I urge President-Elect Trump to build on these reforms and help chart a new course forward for the U.S. and Cuba.”

This letter was signed by Ralph Abraham (R-LA), Justin Amash (R-MI), Donald Beyer (D-VA), Cheri Bustos (D-IL), Kathy Castor (D-FL), Rick Crawford (R-AR), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Mike Doyle (D-PA), Tom Emmer (R-MN), Sam Farr (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Betty McCollum (D-MN), James McGovern (D-MA), Rick Nolan (D-MN), Ted Poe (R-TX), Mark Sanford (R-SC), and Nydia Velazquez (D-NY).

Full text of the letter is below:

Dear President-Elect Trump,

          Congratulations on your election victory.  As you and the Transition Team begin developing policy priorities for the next Administration, members of the bipartisan Cuba Working Group (CWG) strongly urge you to support the restoration of U.S. engagement with Cuba.   The CWG was founded on the belief that increasing trade, travel and investment in Cuba will not only open new markets and create jobs in both countries, but also promote human rights and better hemispheric relations as well as improve the security posture of the United States. 

          Americans support the easing of commercial restrictions in Cuba because it will result in increased jobs, economic growth and productivity gains for the United States economy.  In fact, the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) released a report earlier this year that found if U.S. restrictions on Cuba were lifted, U.S. exports of selected agricultural and manufactured goods could increase to a total of roughly $2.2 billion, up from a mere $180 million in 2015.  Policies that improve commercial relations could potentially create thousands of jobs here in the United States and open valuable new markets for our exports. The restrictions the U.S. government imposes on American business activity in Cuba have not only stymied America’s economic potential, they have provided the repressive Cuban regime with an excuse on which to place blame for their own economic woes.  Additionally, there is little credible evidence that sanctions have improved the human rights situation in Cuba, a top priority of the CWG.  

          The recent death of Fidel Castro represents a dawn of a new era in Cuban leadership and America must use this opportunity to help chart a new course for Cuba’s future.  We believe America’s greatest ambassadors - the American people and the U.S. private sector – will always be the most effective conduit for the spread of American influence. Continued engagement by our citizens and businesses will help to empower the Cuban people, facilitate economic reforms, and promote the expansion of civil and religious liberties. 

          Finally, improving our relationship with Cuba would also align the U.S. government with the will of the American people and improve our standing with our regional allies.  Recent polling from the Pew Research Center show that 73 percent of voters supported renewed diplomatic relations and 72 percent support ending the embargo. In addition, a recent poll out of Florida International University showed that 63 percent of Cuban-Americans in Miami want to see the embargo lifted.  Global support for the normalization of our relations also remains overwhelming, particularly among some of our most important economic and security partners in Latin America.  

          We urge you to support the continued expansion of U.S. engagement with Cuba and allow our private sector to help shape a post-Fidel Cuba. We look forward to the opportunity to
work with you on policies that empower the Cuban people and create greater opportunity for Americans.

          We appreciate your consideration of our request.