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McCaskill: Ending embargo against Cuba would be 'boon' for Missouri businesses

Office of Sen. McCaskill

Just back from a trip to Cuba, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., says ending the embargo would be a win-win for both sides.

She backs the Freedom to Export to Cuba Act – legislation that would effectively end the embargo. Sponsored by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., the legislation has bipartisan support. Co-sponsors include U.S. Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., Mike Enzi, R-Wy., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., among others.

McCaskill, Klobuchar and U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., traveled to Cuba last week to meet with Cuban government officials, citizens, small business owners and others.

“Lifting the embargo won’t just be a boon for Missouri jobs — it’ll also strip the Castro regime of its biggest excuse for why its people aren’t free and prosperous,” McCaskill said. “Ending the embargo and normalizing relations will be a complicated process, but it’s one I’m confident is worth doing — for Missouri’s farmers and ranchers, and for the Cuban people.”

The embargo, she added, is "a phony excuse, but it is an excuse that has been fed to the Cuban people decade after decade."

Cubans “are extremely excited and have a great deal of affection and positive attitudes toward Americans," said McCaskill. "They see this opening as a way that they can begin to build on some of the economic reforms that are in an infancy stage at this point in Cuba.”

"That’s why the Cuban people are so excited,” added  McCaskill. “You ask any of them and they’ll say that they’ll always remember where they were on Dec. 17."  (That’s when both President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro simultaneously announced their intentions to normalize relations between the two countries.)

As for those lawmakers who question whether Cuba can be a trusted trading partner, McCaskill says such misgivings are not “a good reason to deny the opportunity of Missouri agriculture to export to Cuba.  I think the businessmen will have to figure out how they can get paid, and I rely on American businessmen to be pretty good at that,” McCaskill said.

Many Republicans and some Democrats have expressed doubts about improving relations with Cuba while the Castro government remains in power.

“There is nothing about me wanting Missouri agricultural products to find a market in Cuba that means I do not oppose the human rights violations of the Cuban government, just as I oppose the human rights violations in China and other countries that we have trade relationships with,” McCaskill said.  “My view is helping Missouri agriculture first, and second removing an excuse from the Cuban government that America is the problem. That is a much smarter policy than the one we’ve engaged in for 50 years.”

Gov. Jay Nixon is set to head a delegation from Missouri, including several rice producers, on a trade mission to Cuba next week. Nixon will be the first governor to visit Cuba since the president’s announcement. In January, Nixon helped launch an agricultural coalition backing trade and urging Congress to support the president’s plan.

Negotiators from Cuba and the U.S. are scheduled to meet in Washington later this week for a second round of talks on normalizing relations.  

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