By Steve Pringle
In these days of gun rights, immigration reform and gay marriage discussions, it is time to also tackle another difficult decision facing the U.S.: opening trade and travel to Cuba.
Entertainers Jay-Z and Beyonce just returned from Cuba, where only the rich and famous or those “licensed” by our government can travel.
The U.S. is supposed to be the land of the free and home of the brave, but it appears that the whole world is a lot more free and brave when it comes to visiting this island nation only 90 miles off our border.
Most people I know would enjoy a trip to Cuba to visit or vacation with its beautiful beaches and friendly people.
Unfortunately, the U.S. has deployed a fruitless and pointless embargo on Cuba since 1962. The embargo and Fidel Castro himself have outlasted 10 U.S. presidents.
Apparently, we all don’t care enough to insist on making our members of Congress vote for freedom—the freedom of Americans to visit Cuba. Many people want to go there, but it’s not high enough on our priority list to insist that the law be changed.
A small minority of people in South Florida, New Jersey and various other locales carry a 50-year grudge and place a priority on “not trading or traveling to Cuba.” They are the ones being heard in our halls of government.
Cuba can be a significant trading partner of the United States. Several of our southern Port Authorities just returned from Washington, D.C. seeking to gain greater access to that market. Several years ago, Cuba was in the top 10 in trading countries with the United States, but that was before our “big government” was able to crack down once again.
Interestingly, rice and dark meat chicken parts are the most popular items of import from the U.S. to Cuba. Tobacco and rum will likely be the most popular items from Cuba in the U.S.
Thirteen years ago, I was one of a group of “privileged” people to travel to Cuba, and dine with El Presidente (Fidel Castro). I saw a country that would benefit from trade with the U.S. just as we would all benefit from trade with them.
The embargo has not worked, and should be withdrawn. Cuba is no more a threat to world peace than Mexico or Canada.
In the words of a former U.S. President, “Mr. President, tear down this wall.”
Steve Pringle is legislative director for Texas Farm Bureau.