UPDATE 2-U.S. Chamber of Commerce chief urges Cuba to extend reforms

jueves 29 de mayo de 2014 20:24 GYT

(Adds meeting with Raul Castro, paragraph 4)

By Daniel Trotta

HAVANA May 29 (Reuters) - The head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Thursday urged Cuba to speed up and extend market-style economic reforms, saying world investors would respond and that it might be the best path toward better relations with the United States.

Chamber President Thomas Donohue extolled the virtues of capitalism and free markets in the communist-ruled country, once taboo subjects here, and told Cubans that reducing excessive government control of the economy was the best assurance of prosperity.

"The more Cuba can do to demonstrate its commitment to reform, and the more it can do to address and resolve disputes in our relations, the better the prospects will be for changes in U.S. policy," Donohue said in a speech before Foreign Investment Minister Rodrigo Malmierca, a host of other Cuban officials and university students.

Donohue also met with Cuban President Raul Castro, state television said, without reporting details of their conversation. It was a late addition to Donohue's agenda before departing for the United States at the end of a three-day visit.

Donohue, an influential voice in U.S. politics, led a delegation including representatives of commodities giant Cargill and direct-selling pioneer Amway on a trip that drew protests from supporters of the U.S. economic embargo back in Washington.

The chamber has long opposed the embargo as harmful to U.S. business interests; the embargo remains a pillar of the strong Cuban exile lobby that supports maintaining Cold War-era punitive sanctions.

Since taking over as president for his ailing brother Fidel in 2008, Castro has ushered in reforms that have allowed nearly 500,000 small private businesses to operate and hundreds of thousands of private farmers to grow food on their own land.   Continuación...