Texas Governor Greg Abbott recently returned to the Lone Star State following a three-day visit to Cuba revolving around travel, trade and exports, according to KVUE (ABC affiliate) recently. Abbott may be the first governor of Texas to visit the island in history. Abbott further said that “Texas has a business point of view for travel and tourism to Cuba.”
Abbott conducted a press conference during his final day on the island in which he said in pertinent part, “One of my goals was to work with Cuban leaders and Cuban businesses and Cuban business owner to find ways that Texas can capitalize on the growing economic opportunity,” according to Trailblazer. As part of his trip he visited Cuba’s mariel Special Development Zone near Havana, a mega transshipment port designed to serve supercontainer ships. He further met with leaders of CIMEX, the Cuban Export-Import Corporation and the ministry of tourism. Abbott has stated the purpose of his visit was to strengthen economic ties between Texas and that country ahead of any potential federal movies to lift the U.S. embargo with Cuba.
It was approximately 50 years ago when Fidel Castro and his band of rebels overthrew President Fulgencia Batista and took the island nation into the Communist orbit. Prior to that, Havanna was Las Vegas before Las Vegas as casinos flourished and Americans tourists flocked to the then island paradise. However that all changed in 1956 when Castro and brother Raul waded ashore with eighty-two men on Cuba’s marshy south-western coast. Castro then led Che Guevara and 32 men to a hideout in the mountains of Sierra Maestra where they spread propaganda via a transmitter. It was not until 1959 when Batista fled and Castro’s rebels entered the capital city of Havana, according to History Today.
Castro’s Cuba has had an antagonistic relationship with the U.S. since then. The hostility reached a new level in 1960 when U.S. -owned businesses in Cuba were natioinalized without compensation. The Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis which reportedly could’ve resulted in nuclear war ensued. The regime of the Castro brothers has also been widely criticized for suppressing economic and political freedoms. Many Cubans fled the Communist regime to Miami and Southern Florida after their homes were seized.
Although the U.S. and Cuba have had no formal diplomatic relations since then, the Obama Administration has recently talked about normalizing relations with the island nation only sixty miles from the American coast. It is understandable there is still a great deal of enmity between the Cubans who settled in Florida and the Castros who seized their property. It is also reprehensible that the Castros threw many innocent Cubans into prison for years based on their political beliefs.
There are several potential benefits which could result from Abbott’s visit. If the island nation could be returned to a democracy employing a free enterprise system it would be a good thing for both the U.S. and Cuba. Castro’s policies have been disastrous to the Cuban people. He closed down opposition newspapers, jailed thousands of political opponents and eliminated free elections. He also limited the amount of land a person could own, abolished private business and initiated policies which led to housing and consumer goods shortages.
If Abbott’s visit could be the first step to returning Cuba to the fold of democratic countries it would be a great accomplishment not only for the Cuban people, but also for strengthening the Texas economy which is already No. 1 in the United States. With Fidel Castro resigning in 2008 following an illness, now might be the time to strike. Current leader Raul Castro could show good faith by releasing all political prisoners which are still alive. Ports along the Texas coastline could definitely benefit from trade with Cuba.
Abbott showed true leadership in taking a business development mission of two dozen Texans hoping to reintroduce Texas agricultural products to a growing Cuban market. Officials from the ports of Houston, Beaumont and Corpus Christi and Houston’s airports accompanied the governor.
Abbott showed he is a true statesman by seizing the initiative with this trip to help not only Texas, but also the beleaguered people of Cuba who have suffered far too long under the Castro’s repressive regime. While it’s up to the Obama Administration as to whether relations will be normalized, Abbott showed his farsightedness with this trip.
Abbott is the first governor of Texas to be born in Wichita Falls, Texas.