Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director, has traveled to Cuba several times to explore the possibility of doing business on the island.
Scaramucci, whose appointment on Friday led to the resignation of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, is the founder of the global investment firm SkyBridge Capital. He also is behind the annual SkyBridge Alternatives (SALT) Conference that brings together business and government leaders. In 2016, the conference — for the first time —included a panel on Cuba in which the Cuban-American businessman Hugo Cancio was one of the speakers.
At the offices of OnCuba in Havana, a digital media outlet owned by Cancio, Scaramucci was quoted in an interview published in May 2016 about his idea of creating an “investment fund” for Cuba, adding that, “we are eager to exchange (ideas)... about the best ways in which we can contribute to the development of the country, the services and the quality of life of citizens.”
Scaramucci told OnCuba that he first traveled to the island in 2012.
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“When I saw that the U.S. policy of rapprochement was heading to reconciliation and the ease of the embargo, I started to get in touch with people to get an idea of whether it was really possible to implement my projects here,” he said.
On his Facebook page, Scaramucci shared the interview on a May 4, 2016 post and wrote that during his visit to Cuba he "saw a very beautiful country. I am very hopeful for the future of Cuba and excited to welcome the Cubans to the SALT Conference!”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Cancio confirmed that Scaramucci is “a good friend.
“He is a very successful businessman and I hope his new vision will be good for the White House and President Donald Trump,” Cancio said.
Trump recently took steps to tighten U.S. policy toward Cuba and ban business with companies linked to the Cuban military, which controls most of the Cuban economy. It also imposed some limitations on individual travel by Americans to the island and ordered more audits for travelers. However, he did not entirely undo all of the easing of restrictions implemented by former President Obama.
Before taking a harder approach on Cuba, several media outlets, including Newsweek, Bloomberg and the Miami Herald reported the Trump Organization’s interest in doing business with Cuba, even though the U.S. embargo prohibits it.
“I think the situation is oversimplified to one country being capitalist and the Cuban system originating from communism, and as a consequence, there’s an embargo,” Scaramucci said in the interview. “However I think that many Americans would like to get in touch with Cuba and its culture.”
“I have always said that to speak and give an opinion about Cuba, people should travel to the island and be in contact with all kinds of Cubans,” said Cancio, who has served as an adviser for several U.S. companies interested in business on the island. “Anthony has had that opportunity and I hope he can be a new, more calm and coherent voice about Cuba's past and present.”
“Today I sleep more calmly that there is a person close to Trump who can share that vision stemming from the experience on his visits to Cuba,” he added.
Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter: @ngameztorres