Congressman Rick Nolan

Representing the 8th District of Minnesota
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Mankato Free Press: Our View: Pragmatism and profit in Cuba

Mar 25, 2016
In The News

“What the United States was doing was not working.”

That nine-word summary of the Cuban embargo, uttered Tuesday by President Barack Obama in his speech to the Cuban public, is a perfectly succinct and accurate statement. It is, in truth, all the rationale this nation should need for abandoning the policy of crushing the Castro regime by isolating Cuba.

Obama has loosened the embargo with executive actions, but officially lifting it will require congressional action. Judging from the Minnesotans who accompanied the president to Cuba this week, this state’s congressional delegation favors lifting the embargo; Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Reps. Rick Nolan and Tom Emmer were among the 40 members of Congress who went to Cuba with the president.

Klobuchar and Emmer, sponsors in their respective chambers of measures to end the embargo, talk about the potential benefits to Minnesota agriculture. They are genuine and sizable.

The Star Tribune reports that almost $30 million in Minnesota agricultural exports went to Cuba in 2012, the most recent year with available statistics, and another $490,000 in nonfarm exports, such as medical devices, went to Cuba in 2014 under humanitarian exceptions on the trade-embargo laws. State economists estimate that with full trade available, Minnesota exports could more than double annually.

Critics of Obama’s rapprochement with Cuba accurately note that the regime remains oppressive. So are the regimes of China, Russia and Saudi Arabia, to name three nations with which the United States has diplomatic and financial ties.

Cuba Libre is probably more likely if the United States is engaged with the island. The cause certainly won’t be set back by engagement; we have more than a half-century of evidence that isolating Cuba was ineffective.

Given the reluctance of the current Republican majorities in Congress to cooperate with Obama on anything, lifting the embargo this year is unlikely. But Emmer and Klobuchar are on the right track.