For friends in Virginia, look at who “our” governor is meeting with next week: Cuba human rights abuser, Rodrigo Malmierca. Malmierca’s official title is Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment. He is the regime’s face man with foreign investors and for the past few months has been scrambling to secure debt relief from international financiers as well as assure new foreign investors that its alright to do business in Cuba.
The real story? Malmierca is part of the Cuban police state, managed and controlled by the Communist Party; and the agency he oversees, extremely corrupt. These people are focused on regime survival. Malmierca’s mission is to find money, fast, so that other tentacles of the totalitarian state can do the same, survive and thrive. He is coming to Washington to continue a dialogue started last year with numerous Obama officials, especially his counterpart, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.
In my book, many of the new Obama changes to the Cuba Assets Control Regulations (CACR) are illegal or will put U.S. companies in a potentially tough legal and compliance bind. This is especially true on doing business with the Cuban military as well as allowing U.S. companies to open offices in Havana or facilitate credit card payments, among others. Malmierca is Cuba’s point many with the United States and, together with special interests in Washington, DC, are moving fast to secure as many concessions as possible before the November 2016 elections.
My friends, Malmierca is not good people. He is a criminal; a member of corrupt cartel of Communist Party bosses that lord over that island like their own little fiefdom. U.S. companies engaging in any transactions facilitated or approved by these people must take enhanced compliance and legal precautions to make sure that you not only get paid, but that you’re not being used to advance illegal activities or, unwittingly, engage in human rights abuses of Cuban workers. That is part of the reason I’ve advocated a voluntary corporate code of conduct specially designed for engaging in places such as Cuba.
Putting aside the legal and compliance risk, consider the who you’re doing business with. Among Malmierca’s many crimes against the people of Cuba, he is Cuban apartheid facilitator. He and his crew allow foreign investors to treat Cuban workers like chattel, modern-day slaves. How? For example, while the Communist Party fills its coffers with millions of dollars from travel and other commerce, the Cuban worker only makes, on average, $20 a month. Malmierca helps the Communist Party keep the population enslaved, poor, hungry, and, essentially, conditioned to do as they are told.
Malmierca is also no little “d” democrat or potential reformer. Like most senior Communist Party officials, Malmierca a shadowy figure and die-hard Party member whose only focus is socialism or death. Through the years, he has said little in public. He values his life because any opposition is met with demotions or worse. Recently, at an international forum he volunteered that there will never be multi-party elections in Cuba, only the Communist Party will be the voice of the people of Cuba. Besides ignoring U.S. law, the Obama administration should not roll out the red carpet to these people.
According to the Chinese government new agency, Xinhua, Malmierca will meet with “members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and representatives from political and academic circles, and to visit the state of Virginia, at the invitation of Gov. Terry McAuliffe.” McAuliffe and Malmierca have met before. Human rights abuser. Corruption. Communist Party hardliner. Facilitator of trafficking in stolen properties that used to belong to Americans and others. U.S. officials and business leaders are meeting this fellow, for what?
McAuliffe, even you can do better. Virginia is a an ag state, but you’re no farmer. At this juncture, Cuba is an insignificant economic market for the United States. Cuba is a totalitarian police state that is morally, politically, and most importantly for this discussion, economically bankrupt. You’re engaging with Cuba for only one reason, ideological. Everything Cuba is today goes against what Virginia stands for. There are plenty of other opportunities throughout Latin America and the Caribbean that would welcome Virginia products and services. Do your homework.