One of the most successful advocates for a hardline U.S. position against Cuba is now in the White House.
Lobbyist Mauricio Claver-Carone is director of Western Hemisphere Affairs for the National Security Council. He works for NSC chief John Bolton, who famously – and some would say erroneously – said in 2002 that Cuba was developing biological weapons and had shared its technologies with “other rogue states.”
How times have changed.
Under then-President Obama, NSC staffers helped forge a deal to renew diplomatic relations with Cuba. Now they want to tear it apart.
Claver-Carone is co-founder of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, which raised $4,701,300 from 2004 to 2018, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
He has never been to Cuba, but has strong ties to wealthy Cuban exiles who bitterly oppose Cuba’s socialist government. Contributors to his PAC are a Who’s Who of CEOs, entrepreneurs and company presidents. They include:
- Gus Machado. At 15, he arrived in the U.S. from Cuba. He exported used cars back to the island until political troubles between the two countries ended the business. He went on to build one of the country’s top Ford dealerships, Gus Machado Ford. He co-founded the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC and is the group’s treasurer.
- Leopoldo Fernández Pujals. He was born in Cuba in 1947. His parents were from Spain. The family sought exile in Miami in 1960. Fernández joined the Marines and fought in Vietnam. He later went to Spain and founded a pizza delivery company, Telepizza, and became one of that country’s richest men.
Remedios Díaz Oliver. A native of Cuba, she became a U.S. citizen in 1969. She has been president of All American Containers Inc. for more than 20 years, according to LinkedIn.
- Vivian Williams. She is CEO of Cantera & Associates, an accounting firm that her great-grandfather founded in Havana in 1935. She leads the firm along with her mother, Amada Lopez Cantera.
- Melissa Padrón. She is a Cuban-American actress who “is known for her work on Ted 2 (2015) and Rock of Ages (2012),” according to her biography.
- Javier Garcia-Bengochea. He is a neurosurgeon in Jacksonville, Florida. In February 2017, he sued a Chinese company that is expanding the port in Santiago de Cuba. Garcia claims ownership of a commercial waterfront property that is part of the project, the lawsuit says.
- Pedro Munilla. His father, Fernando Munilla Sr., “was one of Cuba’s premier builders” and specialized in bridge building and structural work.
Munilla’s sons now run Munilla Construction Management, or MCM.
The firm’s website states:
MCM is a family owned business and its history dates back to 1941.
“Dad demanded quality in everything,” says Jorge Munilla, president of MCM. “He insisted on quality, and that earned him a reputation for excellence.”
He spearheaded many major projects including the José Martí Monument in Havana (still Cuba’s tallest monument) and the Cuyaguateje River Bridge, which was the largest free span bridge in the Western Hemisphere when it was built in 1954. Mr. Munilla also expanded and reinforced the Malecon, Havana’s famous seawall.
Then, in 1960, Fidel Castro confiscated the firm and the Munilla family was separated.
Four of his sons, Fernando Jr., Luis, Pedro and Raul, were brought to the U.S. through the Pedro Pan airlift operation days before the Bay of Pigs invasion. They were placed in an orphanage in Ohio. The two youngest, Jorge and Juan, stayed behind with their Mother, Maria Munilla, until safe passage could be arranged. Mr. Munilla stayed, fighting for his country’s freedom, leading covert operations along with the CIA.
He was arrested 3 times and finally managed to escape the island just ahead of Castro’s henchmen. Mr. Munilla arrived in America with a change of clothes, his credentials, and a fierce determination to reunite his family. He succeeded within a year, first moving to the Northeast, and then finally settling in Miami where he resumed his career.
Off topic: MCM was the general contractor for a pedestrian bridge that collapsed in March, killing six people.
The company was also named as an acquisition target in a piece about Paul Manafort’s real estate fixer. That has a Cuba connection because MCM has government contracts for work at the Naval Station at Guantánamo.
Back on topic: Claver-Carone was born in Florida and raised in Spain. He is a lawyer and has built a career around his push to bring democracy to Cuba. See my 2011 interview with him.
He was also editor of a popular blog called Capitol Hill Cubans. His biography no longer appears on the site, but you can read it below:
About the Editor
at 9:25 AM Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Mauricio Claver-Carone is the Executive Director of Cuba Democracy Advocates in Washington, D.C., a non-partisan organization dedicated to the promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Cuba.
In an independent capacity, Mauricio is a co-founder and Director of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, the largest, single foreign-policy political committee in the United States and the largest Hispanic political committee in history.
He is host of the foreign policy show “From Washington Al Mundo” on Sirius-XM’s Channel 153.
Mauricio has previously served as an Attorney-Advisor for the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Prior to his work in government, he served as a Clinical Assistant Professor at The Catholic University of America’s School of Law and an Adjunct Professor at The George Washington University’s National Law Center.
A prodigious writer, Mauricio’s work has been featured in numerous publications including: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Politico, The Hill, The Georgetown Journal of International Law and the Yale Journal of International Affairs.
He has presented Congressional testimony before the Committees on Foreign Affairs, the Judiciary and Natural Resources of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Poder Magazine has recognized Mauricio as one of 20 entrepreneurs, executives, leaders and artists under 40 who are shaping the future of the U.S. and the world.