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Florida rancher: Havana will be Hong Kong of Caribbean

John Parke Wright, with close ties to the Castro brothers, says Cuba is starting to open up economically.

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John Parke Wright wants to provide Florida's best restaurants with the finest steaks around, and he wants to do it from a ranch in Cuba.

"I've got a plan," says the sixth-generation Floridan whose ancestors were pioneers of the once-thriving Havana-Tampa trade route. "I'm ready to go."

Cuba, on the other hand, is not quite ready for him. But could it be soon?

Mr. Wright, a rancher, is one of many longtime Cuba watchers who agree that Raúl Castro is following the "China model" of managed movement toward a free market economy.

He would know.

He visits Cuba frequently, finessing close ties with the Castro government in order to push for any small trade openings between the island nation and the US. He was also one of the first businessmen to open up trade with China 30 years ago when Chinese Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping began his famous economic reforms to that country's communist economy. At the time, reformers surrounding Mr. Deng wanted China to be "a little more like [capitalist] Hong Kong and not Hong Kong to become more like China," Wright says.

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