Last week, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman (R) said his scheduled trade trip to Cuba had not stirred up any controversy. He arrived in Cuba on Sunday, saying he hoped to sell fidel dried beans, wheat and corn. Several U.S. Congressmen from Florida wrote Heineman letters objecting to the trip, but the media dismissed the objections as the product of the crazed Miami Cuban Mafia.
But the Lincoln (Nebraska) Journal Star reports that the trade delegation hunkered down on the way out of town. One of the members of the delegation, Bryce Kelley, evaded the questions of local newspeople.
"I'd just prefer to stay out of the press," said Kelley when he was approached at his Scottsbluff office about a trade mission headed by Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman.
(Brett) Morrison, of Clearwater, and (Charlie) Witmer, of Bridgeport, were also keeping a low profile as Heineman emphasized trade and downplayed politics. Nevertheless, old arguments flared up about doing business with a repressive, communist regime.
A repressive, communist regime that is still confiscating businesses. Just in the past few days, fidel has canceled European cruise ships and confiscated the business that serviced them when they arrived at the island.
The farmers, quite understandably, are hoping the trip will help them sell more agricultural products at a better price. They're interested in feeding their families. But a so-called Latin America expert seems to think fidel is a joke.
Hendrik Van den Berg, a Latin American specialist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, sees the trade trip as a refreshing alternative to 40 years of sanctions against Cuba that have failed to oust Castro.
"I always joke in class that Castro is about to fall from power any day now," Van den Berg said.
Another expert shows why capitalism is an economic system - not a system of morality.
Lynn Reuter, based in Scottsbluff with the Nebraska Dry Bean Commission, is always behind anything that might boost demand. She also has a recipe for chocolate chip cookies that turn out deliciously moist when you include a can of Great Northerns in the mix.
It could be a big hit in the Castro kitchen.
Notice, she will do anything to boost demand. The short-sightedness of bottom line thinking.
Then the newspaper goes on to warn the officials that they could easily be duped by an old pro like fidel. It reports some advice given by the State Department.
Be ready for negotiators to cut the small talk short and get down to business, and when officials ask you to participate in seemingly innocuous ceremonial events, be aware that sometimes nothing is as it seems.
It appears that the delegation may have already violated the latter point of advice - they are scheduled to make a tour of the Genetic and Biotechnology Research Institute, and State Department officials say that's a bad idea.
Cuban officials are savvy arrangers of events and statements designed to make it appear that such high-level state officials as Heineman favor the Cuban government and endorse changes in U.S. policy, said (John) Kavulich, senior policy adviser and former president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council. The not-for-profit organization provides commercial information about Cuba.
The Nebraskans say this is not about endorsement - it's about building business relationships. Obviously, they don't understand fidel and don't understand that business with him is not like business with, say, and American agricultural company. Heineman says he is interested in exporting medical supplies, and while U.S. regulations allow they export of medical supplies, they don't allow for the export of materials that could be used in biotech. Heineman's presence could be presented as an objection to the U.S. export policy.
Heineman answers with the old saw that he is not engaging in foreign policy. How blind. When one is dealing with a manipulative dictator such as fidel, of course one is dealing in foreign policy.
Read the whole article - it goes into lots of other trade agreements entered into by several states. It contains the interesting observation from members of a delegation from North Dakota that price, not the quality of goods, was what the Cuban officials were interested in.
How's that for fidel caring for the Cuban people in his worker's paradise?