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Cuban Millennials With Heads For Biz Meet Obama, Head For Training In Miami

Tom Hudson
Future Cuban entrepreneur Mairene Valladares (right) with a Welcome, Obama T-shirt that she and her business-owner parents, Ruben (center) and Maida, printed up.

HAVANA - President Obama is betting that business owners will be engines of change in communist Cuba. Especially millennials. Two of them will meet the President on Monday in Havana – and then head to Miami this summer for more intense biz training.

Oscar Matienzo is a 25-year-old Afro-Cuban with a sharp head for fashion and computer marketing. He’s put both those talents to work for Procle, the private clothing business his family owns in Havana.

Matienzo and his parents are among the entrepreneurs meeting with President Obama during his historic trip to Cuba this week. It’s the first by a U.S. president in 88 years - and Matienzo says young, business-minded Cubans like him see it as a pivotal moment in their lives.

“These changes are spectacular," says Matienzo. "We are having relations with the biggest country in the world. We need free Internet here in Cuba. The visit of Obama maybe will change a lot of things.”

Matienzo is also hoping to be one of 25 people taking part this summer in InCubando@FIU. That’s a new, six-week business training program for Cubans hosted by Florida International University in Miami.

Another is MaireneValladares, a 25-year-old who helps run her family’s packaging firm in Havana. She just finished a business start-up course run by the Roman Catholic Church in Cuba.

“I want to learn how Americans run companies,” says Valladares. “I want to be ready when the U.S. lifts the trade embargo.”