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President Obama Meets With Young Entrepreneurs During Historic Cuba Trip

Cuban entrepreneur Mairene Valladares (right) with a "Welcome Obama" t-shirt she created with her parents, business owners Ruben (center) and Maida. Photo Credit: Tom Hudson, WLRN

President Obama is betting that business owners will be engines of change in communist Cuba. Miami-based reporter Tim Padgett is in Havana for Obama’s historic visit to Cuba. He talked to two young Cuban go-getters who meet with the president today and who are soon headed for Miami.

Oskar Matienzo is a 25-year-old with a keen interest in fashion and computer marketing. He’s put both those talents to work for Procle, a private clothing business his family owns in Havana.

Matienzo and his parents are among the entrepreneurs meeting with President Obama during his trip to Cuba. 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. We are having [a relationship] with the biggest country in the world,” Matienzo said. “We need free internet here in Cuba. The visit of Obama maybe will change a lot of things.”

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

Another participant is Mairene Valladares, a 25-year-old who helps run her family’s packaging firm in Havana. She too will meet Obama this week.

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

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