Cuban business owners have appealed to Donald Trump not to reverse a recent thaw in bilateral relations.
In a letter, more than one hundred business owners said additional measures to boost travel, trade and investment would benefit both nations.
The president-elect, who takes office on January 20, has said he will end a deal under which ties were restored in 2015 unless Havana offers a “better deal”.
Cuba hopes to sign 12 agreements with the United States before Donald Trump’s inauguration.
On December 7, officials from both governments held talks in Havana to discuss how this could be achieved during President Barack Obama’s remaining weeks in office.
Cuban Foreign Ministry’s Director of US Affairs Josefina Vidal said: “At the moment we are negotiating 12 more [agreements] with the aim to be able to conclude and sign a majority of them.”
Josefina Vidal said that a number of agreements had already been signed with Washington since 2015.
She also expressed hopes that the bilateral relations would continue improving but “within the respect of the existing differences and without having to make any kind of concession to the principles in which Cuba firmly believes”.
Barack Obama has worked to improve relations with Cuba, culminating in his historic visit to Havana in March 2016.
In November, Donald Trump threatened in a tweet to put an end to the detente following the death of Fidel Castro.
He said that if “Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the US as a whole, I will terminate deal”.
Donald Trump’s camp accuses the Obama administration of giving too much away to Cuba without receiving enough in return.
Under President Barack Obama, diplomatic ties were restored in July 2015 after being severed in 1961.
Some trade restrictions have been eased and the White House has been lobbying the US Congress to terminate the Cuban economic embargo that has been in place for decades.
Hillary Clinton has accused Donald Trump of violating US laws, after a report said the Republican presidential candidate broke a trade embargo with Cuba.
According to a Newsweek report, Donald Trump’s company secretly conducted business in Cuba, violating the US trade embargo against the country.
His company allegedly spent at least $68,000 in Cuba in 1998.
Donald Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said the money was not paid, and that he was against deals with Cuba.
The New York billionaire has also repeatedly said he had rejected offers to invest in Cuba.
The Newsweek report says Donald Trump’s company funneled the cash through a US consulting company to make it appear legal.
Hillary Clinton said: “We have laws in our country, and the efforts that Trump was making to get into the Cuban market – putting his business interests ahead of the laws of the United States and the requirements that businesses were operating under with sanctions shows that he puts his personal and business interests ahead of the laws and values and the policies of the United States of America.”
Marco Rubio, the Cuban-American senator from Florida who has endorsed Donald Trump, said: “This is something they’re going to have to give a response to.
“I mean, it was a violation of American law, if that’s how it happened.”
“I hope the Trump campaign is going to come forward and answer some questions about this, because if what the article says is true – and I’m not saying that it is, we don’t know with 100% certainty – I’d be deeply concerned about it,” Marco Rubio told a podcast hosted by ESPN and ABC.
Newsweek‘s front-page – citing company records, interviews with former Trump executives and court filings – alleges that Donald Trump’s company, then called Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, sent a consulting firm to Havana on its behalf in search of business opportunities.
The publication says Donald Trump’s senior officers disguised the cash by making it appear that the trip was connected to a Catholic charity.
If the consulting firm spent US money during the visit, without permission from the government, it would have directly violated the Cuban embargo, which remains in place to this day despite a warming in US-Cuba ties.
Speaking on ABC earlier on September 29, Kellyanne Conway initially said: “As I understand from the story, they paid money in 1998.”
Later in the same interview, Donald Trump’s campaign manager said: “Did his hotel invest in 1998 in Cuba? No.”
There has been no further statement from the Trump campaign.
Kellyanne Conway referred to comments Donald Trump has made in the past that were critical of the Cuban regime, and supportive of the embargo.
In a 1999 column in The Miami Herald, Donald Trump wrote that he had snubbed chances to do business in Cuba, saying: “It would place me directly at odds with the longstanding US policy of isolating Fidel Castro. I had a choice to make: huge profits or human rights. For me, it was a no-brainer.”
Cuban leader Raul Castro has demanded the US hand back the Guantanamo Bay military base before relations with Washington are normalized.
In a speech, President Raul Castro also called for the lifting of the US trade embargo and Cuba’s removal from a terror list.
Last month Cuba and the US announced a thaw in relations, agreeing to restore diplomatic ties which were severed in 1961.
High-level talks were held last week.
A Congressional delegation arrived in Havana to begin negotiations aimed at reopening embassies in the two countries’ capitals.
Meanwhile, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro appeared to signal his approval for the political rapprochement.
Cuba’s state-run newspaper Gramma published a letter on January 27 in which he wrote: “We will always defend co-operation and friendship with all the people of the world, including with our political adversaries.”
He wrote that although he did not “trust the policy of the US”, it did not mean he rejected a “peaceful solution to conflicts”.
Fidel Castro’s brother, Raul, who succeeded him as president in 2008, made his demands at the summit of Community of Latin American and Caribbean States in Costa Rica.
“The reestablishment of diplomatic relations is the start of a process of normalising bilateral relations,” he said.
“But this will not be possible while the blockade still exists, while they don’t give back the territory illegally occupied by the Guantanamo naval base.”
The land on which the base stands was leased to the US government in 1903 by Cuba’s then-rulers.
US officials have so far not responded to Raul Castro’s remarks.
President Barack Obama has called on Congress to put an end to the trade embargo, which has been in place since 1962.
Earlier this month President Barack Obama also used his executive powers to loosen trade and restrictions on travel to Cuba.
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