Press Release

U.S. Rep. Castor’s State of the Union guest: From changed perspective to leading the change

f t # e
Washington, January 20, 2015 | comments
Today, local businessman and past Greater Tampa of Chamber of Commerce chair, Jose Valiente, will accompany U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (Tampa/St. Petersburg, FL) to the President’s State of the Union address. Coming off the heels of the President’s announcement last month to normalize relations with Cuba, Cuban-born Jose Valiente epitomizes the evolving views towards Cuba and the leading role Tampa Bay is poised to take as more engagement and expanding business ties with Cuba are underway.
share: f t

Today, local businessman and past Greater Tampa of Chamber of Commerce chair, Jose Valiente, will accompany U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (Tampa/St. Petersburg, FL) to the President’s State of the Union address. Coming off the heels of the President’s announcement last month to normalize relations with Cuba, Cuban-born Jose Valiente epitomizes the evolving views towards Cuba and the leading role Tampa Bay is poised to take as more engagement and expanding business ties with Cuba are underway.

“Cuban-Americans and our entire community have already benefited from remittances and relaxed travel. Mr. Valiente and many others in Tampa Bay are supportive of further expanding opportunities for engagement with Cuba that will not only help the people of the island, but will also boost families and business in Tampa Bay. My community has long-standing ties with Cuba that date back to the 1800s and today, Tampa Bay is poised to be the gateway to Cuba,” said U.S. Rep. Castor, who successfully championed direct flights between Tampa and Cuba, which now bring in $1 million in annual revenue for Tampa’s airport, and has called for lifting the embargo.

“I am truly honored and humbled by Congresswoman Castor’s invitation. Her courage and uncompromising desire to do the right thing were the catalyst behind this history-making initiative to normalize relations with Cuba,” said Mr. Valiente, who came from Cuba at age 12 and started his own accounting firm in Tampa. “Upon my return from my 2010 Cuba trip, I immediately contacted Congresswoman Castor and impressed upon her the need to have direct flights from Tampa to Cuba. I was also part of a Chamber of Commerce delegation that went to Washington, D.C. and visited with Congresswoman Castor to further discuss this. She took the leadership and made it happen.”

Mr. Valiente also spearheaded a groundbreaking cultural exchange between the Florida Orchestra and the Cuban National Orchestra in 2011. 

“My perspective on the embargo changed in 2003 when I attended a Cuba conference in Tampa and one of the speakers was Kirby Jones [consultant on trade and business with Cuba]. Mr. Jones has been doing business with Cuba longer than anyone I know. In a private conversation with him, I asked him about his opinion on the embargo. His answer shocked me, but opened my eyes,” Mr. Valiente said. “He told me back then, that if the United States was to lift the embargo, [Fidel] Castro would impose one himself. It was not in Castro’s best interest for the embargo to be lifted because the government would lose control.”

Congresswoman Castor visited Cuba in 2013 on a fact-finding mission and Mr. Valiente made his first trip back to Cuba in 2010, nearly 50 years after he left the island.

###

 

f t # e