Bennet Announces the Launch of Engage Cuba Statewide Council

Diverse Council will Work to Open Trade and End Travel Ban to Cuba

Denver, CO - Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and Engage Cuba announced the launch of a statewide council that will work to open trade opportunities to Cuba and end the travel ban. The 38-member council is made up of a diverse group of Coloradans representing industries like banking, agriculture, travel and tourism, high-tech, healthcare, education, energy, and others.

Bennet is cosponsoring two bills to further this cause, including the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act and the Freedom to Export to Cuba Act. The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act would eliminate restrictions against Americans traveling to Cuba. The bill would also prohibit restrictions on any transactions related to travel, like bank transactions. The Freedom to Export to Cuba Act would repeal laws that prohibit U.S. companies from doing business with Cuba, and allow businesses to work directly with the Cubans to finance and ship purchases of American made products.

"We are grateful to have such an impressive gathering of diverse industry leaders to support the end of trade restrictions and travel barriers to Cuba," Bennet said. "It's important that we recognize that our country has more ties to Cuba than just Miami and the coasts, and Colorado communities have a tremendous amount to gain economically and culturally from reestablishing this important relationship. This newly formed state council will allow us to forge new relationships, strengthen financial ties, and build bridges of opportunity for the next generation of both Cubans and Americans."

"We're very pleased to work with all of our Engage Cuba Colorado State Council members to lift the Cuba travel and trade bans that is costing Colorado jobs and preventing economic development for the Cuban people. It's time to end 55 years of failed, isolationist policies toward Cuba," said President of Engage Cuba, James Williams. "Colorado businesses are stuck on the sidelines as our foreign competitors continue to take advantage of Cuba's growing markets. Opening up trade with Cuba would provide tremendous opportunities for Colorado agriculture, manufacturing, technology, and renewable energy sectors and support Cuba's growing private sector."

The council is focused on expanding trade with Cuba to provide economic and educational opportunities for the people of Colorado and Cuba. It's estimated that the current Cuban embargo has cost the U.S. $1.2 billion annually in lost export revenue. Normalizing relations is estimated to generate $4.3 billion in exports. The Cuban government has also expressed interest in building its renewable energy sector and has set a goal of generating 24 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. Colorado's thriving renewable energy industry would be uniquely positioned to be an international leader in exporting energy infrastructure, technology and expertise to Cuba. Cuba also imports 80 percent of its food, which could provide excellent opportunities for Colorado farmers and ranchers to increase their exports.

Speakers at Tuesday's launch event included Bennet, Hikmet Ersek, CEO of Western Union, Barry Biffle, CEO of Frontier Airlines, Karen Gerwitz, President of World Trade Center Denver, Don Shawcroft, President of the Colorado Farm Bureau, Luke Albee of Engage Cuba, and Cuban-American Community Leader and CEO of CRL Associates Maria Garcia Berry. Colorado is the 12th state council launched across the U.S.