Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A Recap of Congressman Grijalva's Trip to Cuba

Posted By on Tue, Jun 2, 2015 at 11:30 AM

click to enlarge Grijalva joins the service staff at Paladar San Cristobal after a dinner with artists participating in The Havana Biennial Art Exhibition. - COURTESY OF U.S. REP. RAÚL GRIJALVA'S OFFICE
  • Courtesy of U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva's office
  • Grijalva joins the service staff at Paladar San Cristobal after a dinner with artists participating in The Havana Biennial Art Exhibition.

U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva traveled to Cuba last week with a handful of other members of Congress. 

He said on his Facebook it was an opportunity to see first-hand the many opportunities Cuba and the U.S. have to benefit each other. "We are the only nation in our hemisphere that doesn't deal with Cuba, and that has to change if we want to develop a mutually prosperous relationship with this neighbor just 90 miles off our coastline," he said in a statement. "President Obama has taken significant actions to normalize relations with Cuba. Now Congress must act to fully end the decades-old trade and travel embargo."

The U.S. removed Cuba from the list of countries that sponsor terrorism last week, as well.

A news release from Grijalva's office says the congressional delegation met with officials from Cuba’s ministry of agriculture, and discussed business opportunities with the country and Arizona. 

“As Cuba opens its markets, it’s vital that Arizona’s agricultural, technological and business leaders engage in the new opportunities that develop,” Grijalva says. “Cuba needs farming equipment and agricultural goods—with Yuma providing 90 percent of our nation’s lettuce and leafy vegetables harvest in winter, our community is uniquely positioned to benefit from trade with Cuba.”

They visited and chatted with executives of Etecsa, a telecommunications company, to explore  Cuba's technological challenges and upcoming goals, the press release says.

“Only 20 percent of Cubans have access to the internet right now,” Grijalva says. “They want to extend the promise of open internet to 60 percent of their population by 2020, but that will require access to computers and electronics that they don’t currently have. Once again, Arizonans have an opportunity here, with computers and electronics being our largest merchandise export category, accounting for $5 billion of our state’s merchandise exports in 2014.”

In December 2014, President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro, Fidel's brother, announced they were in talks to normalize the relationship between the two nations.

The economic embargo began in 1961, following an unsuccessful American invasion of Cuba via the Bay of Pigs. 

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