United States and Cuba

Dwight Roberts President/CEO USRPA

Dwight Roberts President/CEO USRPA

Are we moving forward?

Now that the Farm Bill has been signed and that debate is over, it’s time for the U.S. agricultural community to give some serious attention to improving access to the Cuban market. In all honesty, it’s time for the U.S. Congress to show some good old fashioned leadership when it comes to this island country just 90 miles away. You can look at U.S.-Cuban relations in two ways: A very complicated and complex political situation or ridiculously simple. After 52 years of embargo, what else is there to say?

In mid-February, a U.S. Senate delegation traveled to Cuba to discuss human rights, health care and trade issues. Senator Bernie Sanders (VT), the longest serving independent member of Congress, supports an end to the embargo. “American businesses are losing billions of dollars,” he says. “Meanwhile, Canadians and Europeans are creating jobs through their investments in Cuba.” He calls the embargo “an abject failure, counterproductive.” Recently, the Atlantic Council (atlanticcouncil. org/cuba) conducted a survey, organized by a bipartisan group, focused on U.S. national interest in Cuba. The bottom line is that a majority of Americans favor normal relations or a more direct engagement with the Cuban government.

More Supporters Speak Out

Both Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) wrote an opinion article for the Miami Herald in mid-February titled “Time for a New Cuba Policy.” They declare the Cold War is over and that “we have re-established diplomatic relations with the governments of China and Vietnam,” yet the U.S. has “refused to re-examine the political and economic embargo on Cuba.”

Apparently more and more people are getting on the bandwagon and have decided to speak out. No one more interesting that Mr. Alfonso Fanjul, the Cuban-born Floridian and sugar businessman who, until recently, was staunchly against any type of normalization between the United States and Cuba. Now, Mr. Fanjul is traveling to Cuba, meeting with officials and looking to expand his sugar interests. Equally interesting are the recent comments of the Democratic candidate for governor in Florida, Charlie Crist. As the Republican governor from 2007-2011, Crist supported the U.S. sanctions against Cuba, signing a state law to increase costs on agencies that booked trips to the island and was 100 percent in favor of the embargo. Today is a different story, and his current approach would have been suicidal as a Republican in the sensitive Florida political atmosphere. “We need to encourage American values and investment (in Cuba), not block ourselves out and cede influence to China,” says Crist.

Momentum appears to be getting stronger for policy change in Cuba, and political leaders and influential Cuban-Americans are calling for an end to the embargo. Today, it’s the United States that is in isolation. Why not move forward with Cuba?

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