Iowa seen benefiting from normalized relations with Cuba

President Barack Obama announced yesterday that the U.S. would normalize relations with Cuba after about a year of secret negotiations involving Canada and Pope Francis. On hearing the news, my first thought was that when the Soviet Union collapsed, I would never have believed it would be another 23 years before this happened. My second thought was that expanded trade with Cuba would help Iowa’s economy. Matt Milner reported for the Ottumwa Courier that agricultural groups are bullish on the news. I’ve posted excerpts from his story after the jump. Key point:

A paper written in 2003 for Iowa State University’s Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, shortly after some restrictions were lifted, said Iowa could benefit more from increased Cuban trade than any other state aside from Arkansas and California.

I was surprised not to see more reaction to yesterday’s news from members of Iowa’s Congressional delegation. I know everyone’s gone home for the Christmas recess, but still–big news. I will update this post as needed.

Several possible presidential candidates commented on the new U.S. approach to Cuba. Senator Rand Paul was supportive, saying Obama’s decision was a “good idea” since the American embargo against Cuba “just hasn’t worked.” Republicans who bashed the president on this issue included former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has advocated normal relations with Cuba for some time.

UPDATE: Bleeding Heartland user cocinero posted Senator Chuck Grassley’s reaction in the comments.

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Year in review: national politics in 2009 (part 1)

It took me a week longer than I anticipated, but I finally finished compiling links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage from last year. This post and part 2, coming later today, include stories on national politics, mostly relating to Congress and Barack Obama’s administration. Diaries reviewing Iowa politics in 2009 will come soon.

One thing struck me while compiling this post: on all of the House bills I covered here during 2009, Democrats Leonard Boswell, Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack voted the same way. That was a big change from 2007 and 2008, when Blue Dog Boswell voted with Republicans and against the majority of the Democratic caucus on many key bills.

No federal policy issue inspired more posts last year than health care reform. Rereading my earlier, guardedly hopeful pieces was depressing in light of the mess the health care reform bill has become. I was never optimistic about getting a strong public health insurance option through Congress, but I thought we had a chance to pass a very good bill. If I had anticipated the magnitude of the Democratic sellout on so many aspects of reform in addition to the public option, I wouldn’t have spent so many hours writing about this issue. I can’t say I wasn’t warned (and warned), though.

Links to stories from January through June 2009 are after the jump. Any thoughts about last year’s political events are welcome in this thread.

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Boswell wants U.S. to normalize trade relations with Cuba

I don’t write much about foreign policy here, but earlier this week President Barack Obama lifted some travel restrictions to Cuba, and Congressman Leonard Boswell devoted his weekly e-mail blast to making the case for normalizing trade with Cuba:

Since Iowa’s economy is so strongly impacted by trade, I have been a supporter of opening-up the U.S. relationship with Cuba by lifting restrictions imposed in the 1960’s.

I believe the Obama Administration has begun to move in the right direction by lifting travel and spending restrictions on Americans with family in Cuba.  The Administration is also lifting the ban on U.S. telecommunications companies reaching out to the island. This move will flood Cuba with the information its people have been denied for so many years and provide new opportunities for businesses.

While I commend these latest actions, I believe we must make bolder changes.  Normalizing trade relations with Cuba would expand export markets while benefiting our American famers and ranchers.

Because of my support for lifting trade restrictions with Cuba, I have cosponsored H.R. 1531, the Promoting American Agricultural and Medical Exports to Cuba Act, as well as H.R. 1737, the Agricultural Export Facilitation Act.  Both pieces of legislation would end the current trade embargo, which does not permit U.S. agricultural products from being exported to Cuba, among other things.

I believe we must maintain two-way trade relationships with foreign nations.  The U.S. can produce and ship products to Cuba more cheaply and efficiently than many countries Cuba imports from today.

The U.S. is on the right path toward improving relations with Cuba, and I am hopeful this relationship will continue to grow.

I am with Boswell on this, and not only because increased trade with Cuba would create a new export market for Iowa products. It’s ludicrous that the U.S. has continued to impose such restrictions on trade with Cuba nearly two decades after the Soviet Union collapsed. Meanwhile, Communist China is a greater threat to our long-term security, yet we give them most favored nation trade status. It’s very hard to avoid buying goods made in China (and believe me, I try).

This thread is for any comments about U.S. relations with Cuba.  

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Dodd Unveils Cuba Policy in Miami

Senator Dodd will hold a press conference to announce his comprehensive Cuba policy today in Miami, FL at 11 AM Eastern. Dodd, who has led the fight to reform our approach to Cuba to better serve the cause of democracy and American interests, will call for bold, sweeping changes to America's Cuba policy.

I will update this diary with links to the full plan, but for now check out the preview offered by the Miami Herald today:

In a statement given Friday to The Miami Herald, Dodd favors opening a U.S. embassy in Havana, allowing Americans to do business there, and nixing TV Martí, the U.S.-funded broadcast routinely blocked by Cuba.

''I believe the time has come to say publicly what many Americans believe — our Cuba policy has neither served America's interests nor brought democracy to Cuba,'' reads the speech Dodd plans to give in Miami today. “It has only served to strengthen the current regime. It has been an abject failure.''

Chris Dodd has the boldness to open new doors in our relationship with Cuba. This plan is yet another example of Dodd leading with conviction, experience, and clarity of vision.

UPDATE:

The video of the press conference is embedded above. Dodd was very strong, fluidly answering questions on his Cuba policy in both English and Spanish.

The full Dodd Cuba policy is now online. Read it here.

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