U.S. Chamber of Commerce disinvites Cuban American activist to event in DC featuring Castro official

When you make a deal with the devil, you have to do business by the devil’s rule. The same is true with the Castro dictatorship. When you want to do business with them, you have play by their rules, and those rules include censorship and the quashing of free speech — even in the United States.

Cuban American activist Frank Calzon, the Director of the Center for a Free Cuba, was supposed to attend an event sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce being held in Washington D.C. today featuring Jose Ramon Cabañas, a high-ranking Castro dictatorship official stationed at the Cuban Interests Section. However, after his participation was confirmed by the organization, it was brusquely rescinded.

Here is the press release from the Center for a Free Cuba:



In an unusual development in Washington, where associations and NGOs encourage a wide participation of people of all types in their events, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who is sponsoring a trip to Cuba in a few days, today, despite their written acceptance, notified Frank Calzon, Executive Director of the Center for a Free Cuba, that he would not be welcomed at the event they are hosting this afternoon to listen to José Ramón Cabañas, the Chief of Castro’s Interests Section in the U.S. capital.

Please read below the two emails from the Chamber of Commerce. We believe that several guests who give the Cuban government the benefit of the doubt and who are engaged in a well-financed campaign urging President Obama to bypass the Congress and lift sanctions against the Castro government that remains on the State Department list of supporters of international terrorism will be allowed to attend this meeting despite the fact that they are not members of the Chamber.

Frank Calzon urges members of the Chamber to take note that “one of the unintended consequences of working arrangements with the Castro government is that Havana’s disregard for freedom of speech becomes accepted practice by those doing business with Havana.” The Chamber’s initiative coincides with an open letter to the President circulated by the Council of the Americas also urging the President to bypass the Congress on this issue. The letter was signed by several Cuban-American businessmen who want to make multimillion dollar sales to the Cuban government. Not one Cuban human rights dissident or pro-democracy activist living on the island signed the letter.

But as soon as the letter was known, three important Cuban opposition leaders on the island firmly criticized it indicating that the Cuban tragedy cannot be resolved by making concessions to the regime or increasing sales. The Cuban situation, they argue, is fundamentally a political situation, not an economic situation, and what is needed is not more concessions from Washington, but international pressure on Havana to stop the beatings of peaceful dissidents, including women, and obtain the release of all Cuban political prisoners, insist that General Castro permit the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit Cuban prisons (the International Committee on the Red Cross does visit the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo, but is not allowed to enter Cuba proper to see Castro’s captives).

While this campaign to bring hundreds of millions of dollars to Castro’s coffers is going on, Castro’s police continues to play an important role in the repression of Venezuelan demonstrators, while Raul Castro’s son signs a new military accord with Moscow.


From: Smith-Vaughan, Reuben [mailto:RSmith@USChamber.com]
Sent: Wednesday, May 21, 2014 10:39 AM
To: ‘frank.calzon@cubacenter.org’; ‘daniel.pedreira@cubacenter.org’
Subject: Meeting w/ Cabanas
Importance: High

Good afternoon Frank/Daniel,

We were reviewing the registration list for today’s meeting and noticed your names on the list. Unfortunately, these events are off-the-record and are only open to member companies of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. I’m very sorry for the confusion and hope we can stay in touch in the future.



Reuben Smith-Vaughan

Senior Manager, Americas Policy and Advocacy
U.S. Chamber of Commerce


From: Strasser, Pink [mailto:pstrasser@USChamber.com]
Sent: Monday, May 19, 2014 4:00 PM
To: ‘Frank Calzon’
Subject: RE: I WILL ATTEND TO: US Chamber of Commerce, May 21.


Thank you for your response.

You have been added to our list of participants for both meetings and we look forward to your participation.

Kind regards,


Pink Strasser

Administrative Assistant
Americas Department
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
1615 H Street, NW | Washington, DC | 20062