Cuban businesses plead for US sanctions lift

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Eighty-five percent of the Cuban economy is in the hands of the one-party state (AFP/YAMIL LAGE)
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Private business owners in Cuba urged US President Joe Biden to lift economic sanctions against the communist island in an open letter published on Monday.

While 85 percent of the Cuban economy is in the hands of the one-party state, there are more than 600,000 private sector workers, mainly in the tourism and services industries recently authorized to register small and medium enterprises.

But the coronavirus pandemic and sanctions tightened under former US president Donald Trump has hit Cuba with its worst economic crisis since 1993, with 250,000 small businesses folding in recent months.

"We call upon you to reflect on the impact of your administration's current policies towards Cuba, which are significantly harming our businesses and families," said the letter with 247 signatures.

"Through our businesses, we are working to build a strong economic future for our families so that enterprising Cubans do not feel the need to emigrate in order to have rewarding work and economic prosperity."

Cuba has been under US sanctions since 1962, but the private sector saw a brief boom during a period of political rapprochement under the US administration of Barack Obama.

Biden had promised during his election campaign to reverse certain sanctions toughened under Trump, but Cuba was expected to implement human rights reforms in return.

After a government clampdown on recent protests, the United States has announced further sanctions on individuals over alleged rights abuses.

Cuban authorities have been accused by rights watchdogs of regular human rights abuses, including arbitrary detention of dissidents, unfair trials and infringements of freedom of speech and assembly.

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