Tag Archives: cuba

Fidel has not called

My cameo in the Boise Weekly waxing in-eloquently on Cuba did not result in a call from Fidel. It would have been nice if he’d read this, and had some follow up questions though.

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But Jeffrey Goldberg’s recent piece on Iran and Israel earned him an invitation to the island for a chat with Castro. Goldberg is blogging about his visit and his special trip to the Havana Aquarium. I’m burying his lead, but the aquarium scene was even better than the part where he said that the Cuban model does not work for Cuba anymore.

UPDATE: Cuba bill to get full hearing

BOISE — After a lively debate Monday morning, a bill to urge Congress to open up trade and travel with Cuba will advance to a full hearing. Toward the end of the hearing Rep. Brent Crane (R-Nampa) stepped out of the room to call his Cuban father-in-law.

“He said the time is right, the time is here to lift that embargo,” Crane reported back to the committee.
Crane’s father-in-law, who left the island in a boat in 1959, did not always feel that way. He has been back to Cuba to visit twice recently and has changed his mind about the efficacy of U.S. policy there.

Tom Trail in Cuba

Moscow Rep Tom Trail on the phone
at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba last Spring.
Photo by Nathaniel Hoffman

The bill’s sponsor, Moscow Republican Rep. Tom Trail, who has the support of the governor’s office, wants the U.S. Congress and the Bush administration to end the 46-year embargo against Cuba and allow Americans to travel there freely. Trail fielded several questions about U.S.-Cuba policy and specifically about Cuban-Americans’ attitudes.

Rep. Eric Anderson (R-Priest Lake), who voted against introducing the measure, said there are 1.4 million people in Idaho and 2.7 million Cuban expatriates in the U.S. How do the Cuban-Americans feel about opening up trade and travel, Anderson asked?

Trail told the committee that an increasing number of Cuban-Americans, particularly the younger generation, supports engagement and free travel.

Some committee members were also concerned that the state Legislature was wading into federal territory in debating foreign policy. But many states including Idaho have an interest in doing business with Cuba, Trail said. Cuba even imports sugar now, though Idaho’s sugar beet sugar is not a likely source for the Caribbean island, he added.

Trail has been to Cuba twice, most recently in April 2007 with a state trade delegation.

Anderson further argued that opening trade with the island should be contingent on opening up successful diplomatic relations first. He was also concerned about Cuba’s commitment to Human Rights and to the free market.

Trail assured Anderson that high ranking Cuban officials, including Ricardo Alarcon, the head of the Cuban parliament, had indicated to him that they welcomed diplomatic relations with the United States.

In 2002 the Idaho Legislature debated and eventually passed a resolution urging and end to violence and self-determination for the Basque Country. The U.S. State Department intervened, reminding the Idaho Legislature who makes foreign policy.

Trail and others on the committee argued that this resolution was different because of Idaho’s direct interest in trade with Cuba.

Speaking in favor of at least introducing the bill, Nampa Republican John Vander Woude made a slip of the tongue that drew belly laughs from his colleagues: “I’m not saying I’m in favor of the Revolution er, resolution.”

Trail to introduce Cuba memorial

BOISE — Idaho Rep. Tom Trail, a Moscow Republican, is scheduled to introduce a bill Monday morning to encourage Congress to “remove all trade, financial and travel restrictions” in relation to Cuba.

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Rep. Tom Trail, R-Moscow, sips a coco loco
at a farmers cooperative in Cuba in April 2007
Photo by Nathaniel Hoffman

Trail was part of a delegation that visited Cuba last Spring with Gov. C. L. “Butch” Otter. It was Trail’s second trip to the Caribbean island.

The proposed Joint House Memorial has the support of the governor’s office, according to Trail. It states that Cubans and Americans desire better relations, that the U.S. must engage Cuba in order to make the island more democratic, that other nations are reaping benefits from trade with Cuba and that Idaho producers could benefit from free trade with the island.

“The whole problem with not having normal relations with Cuba is the Cuba lobby,” Trail said last week. We have normal relations with China and Vietnam, other countries with communist forms of government, he added.

“Our diplomatic stance on Cuba is unjust when compared to other countries,” Trail said.

Before the Cuban Revolution in 1959, Cuba was the leading purchaser of lentils and peas from Idaho, Trail said.

The state’s trade delegation last year to Cuba did not yield the millions of dollars in sales that were hoped for. Only about $100,000 in pork products were contracted following the visit. Limited food and medicine sales to Cuba are allowed under the ongoing U.S. embargo.

The print hearing for the Joint Memorial is 9 a.m. Monday in the House State Affairs Committee, Room 145 at the Annex.