For the first time, Cuba approves Cuban-owned Miami company to do business on the island

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The Cuban government has authorized a company owned by Miami businessman Hugo Cancio to operate on the island, an unusual ruling on a request that Cancio submitted more than a year ago that was initially rejected.

A decree signed by Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment Rodrigo Malmierca allows Cancio’s Miami-based Fuego Enterprises to sell food as well as artisanal and other consumer goods in Cuba. It was published July 28 in the island’s Official Gazette.

Fuego will have a branch office in Havana to handle the operations by the parent company in Miami, such as imports and exports.

“I am glad they approved the branch office, which I requested more than a year ago. But at this time, so sensitive for my community, I am not celebrating being the first company of a Cuban American with a branch in Cuba,” Cancio told el Nuevo Herald. He said he disagreed with “the excessive response of the Cuban government to the peaceful protests” that took place all over the island on July 11.

Cancio’s company will be able to add its name to the National Register of Foreign Commercial Representatives, part of the Chamber of Commerce of the Republic of Cuba.

The government had not previously allowed Cubans living abroad to operate a business on the island. Cancio said he submitted his petition because “it is the right of the diaspora to return and become part of the economic changes and openings on the island.”

Cancio, 57, is president and executive director of Fuego Enterprises Inc., founded in 2004 with a capital of $19.18 million, according to information in the Wall Street Journal.

The company has dealt mostly in communications, entertainment, travel programs and real estate, and publishes the magazines OnCuba and ART OnCuba, plus the digital OnCuba News.

It also opened a food delivery service in December, katapulk.com, that currently delivers more than 1,000 food packages a day to Cubans, Cancio said. Someone abroad pays for the packages, the service buys the goods in Cuba from non-state operators and delivers them through more than 100 paid drivers, he added.

Cancio said all his operations in Cuba meet regulations imposed by the U.S Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control and U.S. policies on Cuba designed to encourage and support all non-state operations that benefit the Cuban people.

“The license they issued to me is not exclusive or the only one, but the start of a policy by the country’s leadership to have relations with the diaspora, the first of many to come,” he said, adding that the Cuban government must accept “that the diaspora will not return with just a check, but with an ideology that will not be compatible with the Cuban state — and that has to be respected.”

Cancio emigrated to the United States during the Mariel exodus in 1980, when he was 16, and has been a vocal opponent of the U.S. trade embargo on the island. He was the promoter behind several Miami concerts by island performers, even before a thawing of relations with the island began under President Barack Obama in 2014.

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