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    How to do good business in Cuba

    How to do good business in Cuba
    Lindsay Lloyd 12:32 a.m. EDT April 5, 2016

    President Barack Obama’s recent visit to Cuba showed the same fault
    lines in American attitudes toward the communist island that have
    existed since 1959.

    But it remains to be seen if the administration’s decision to engage
    with Havana will produce improvements in Cuba’s dismal human rights
    record. Dissidents and independent journalists continue to be routinely
    rounded up for daring to challenge the regime’s authority. The most
    recent Human Rights Report from the State Department and the Freedom in
    the World report from independent watchdog Freedom House continue to
    brand Cuba as a repressive dictatorship. Human Rights Watch and other
    groups say that human rights abuses have worsened in recent years.

    Meanwhile, American businesses are eager to pounce on what they see as
    an untapped market. In just the last few weeks, airlines have bid for
    direct flights, hotel chains have announced new deals and technology
    giants are promising to break down the state’s censorship and isolation.
    Even conservatives like Texas Gov. Greg Abbott have been leading trade
    missions to Cuba since the thaw began.

    But Cuba accepts foreign investment only on its own terms. Businesses
    must hire candidates vetted by the state. Ordinary Cubans are barred
    access to some facilities, such as hotels. Wages are paid not to the
    employee, but rather to a state agency, which then in turn pays the
    employee a fraction of his nominal salary.

    International business can and should be a force for good. They can
    improve the quality of life for their employees and for consumers. But
    how do we ensure that their interest in Cuba pays off for the people of
    Cuba and doesn’t prolong a decrepit regime’s grip on power?

    Look back at the case of South Africa in the late 1970s. At that time,
    South Africa had large investments from multinational corporations,
    despite its apartheid policies that segregated and discriminated against
    the non-white population.

    In 1977, the Rev. Leon Sullivan, an African-American minister from
    Philadelphia, drafted a set of guidelines for foreign companies doing
    business in South Africa. The Sullivan Principles were widely adopted by
    multinationals operating in the country, and committed them to provide
    fair employment and equal treatment for all, regardless of race.

    Sullivan’s approach was seen as too slow-moving for some, but his
    principles were seen as a way to promote democracy and economic
    empowerment. At the time of his death, Brigalia Bam, a former activist
    with the World Council of Churches, explained that “we South Africans
    owe a lot to him.”

    Later, the Sullivan Principles helped inspire Cuban dissident Gustavo
    Arcos Bergnes to develop a similar set of guidelines for foreign
    investment in Cuba in 1994. The Arcos Principles outline a set of
    standards to promote human rights and fair labor practices. These
    standards promote the rule of law, demand equal access for all Cubans,
    equal and independent hiring practices, and the establishment of free
    trade unions.

    U.S. businesses can help improve the sad economic reality of most
    Cubans. But as they examine opportunities for trade and investment in
    Cuba, they should also seek to improve the human rights situation.

    Cuba needs foreign investment far more than foreign investors need
    access to a poor society. Corporations, especially American firms that
    are eager to do well in Cuba, should also ensure that they are doing good.

    Lindsay Lloyd is deputy director of the Human Freedom Initiative at the
    George W. Bush Institute. This has been adapted from InsideSources.

    Source: How to do good business in Cuba –
    www.detroitnews.com/story/opinion/2016/04/05/good-business-cuba/82641930/

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