The head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce this week led a delegation to Cuba where he urged the communist country to speed up and extend market-style economic reforms, saying that world investors would respond and that it might be the best path toward better relations with the United States.
Chamber President Thomas Donohue, an influential voice in U.S. politics, extolled the virtues of capitalism and free markets – once taboo subjects in Cuba – and said reducing excessive government control of the economy was the best assurance of prosperity.
"The more Cuba can do to demonstrate its commitment to reform, and the more it can do to address and resolve disputes in our relations, the better the prospects will be for changes in U.S. policy," Donohue said Thursday in a speech before Foreign Investment Minister Rodrigo Malmierca, along with a number of other Cuban officials and university students.
The U.S. business leader also met with Cuban President Raul Castro, state television said, without reporting details of their conversation. It was a late addition to Donohue's agenda before departing for the U.S. at the end of a three-day visit.
Donohue led a delegation including representatives of commodities giant Cargill and direct-selling pioneer Amway on a trip that drew protests from supporters of the U.S. economic embargo back in Washington.
The chamber has long opposed the embargo against Cuba as harmful to U.S. business interests. However, the embargo remains a pillar of the strong Cuban exile lobby that supports maintaining Cold War-era punitive sanctions.