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Kentucky State Leaders Launch Bipartisan Effort To Lift Cuba Restrictions

Roxanne Scott

Some government and business leaders in Kentucky want the U.S. to lift its oldest economic sanctions against Cuba.

Tuesday marked the launch of the bipartisan Engage Cuba Kentucky State Council, which aims to promote relations between the two countries and lift the nearly 60-year embargo. Some believe the move would benefit both the Commonwealth and Cuba.

In June, President Trump announced that he would reinstate restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba along with other commercial prohibitions. In 2014, then-President Obama restored diplomatic ties with the country.

Some believe Trump’s announcement was a step in the wrong direction. Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth of Louisville is one of them.

“Well, I would defy President Trump to give one logical reason for that policy,” Yarmuth said.

Yarmuth believes the U.S. is losing out by not having an economic relationship with Cuba.

“The rest of the world is already doing business with Cuba,” he said. “The French are there, the Israelis are there, the Russians are there, the Chinese are there, the Canadians are there. There’s no reason for us not to be.”

According thePew Research Center, 73 percent of Americans support ending the United States’ trade embargo on Cuba. The poll was taken in December 2016, shortly after the death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro.  

Proponents say easing relations between the U.S. and Cuba could boost the Commonwealth’s agricultural exports, such as soybeans and poultry. It could also help the state’s automobile industry.

Others are a bit more cautious.

Louisville writer and film producer Mark Rabinowitz attended Tuesday’s event and believes the U.S. should become an economic partner with Cuba, but do it prudently.  

“What we don’t want is fruit companies or sugar companies or large businesses just en masse economically invading a country,” he said.

Rabinowitz said because of the unique relationship between the two countries, as well as the United States’ history in other Latin American countries, he wants to see a more gradual opening up of Cuba to the U.S.

“The development of the United States’ presence in Cuba needs to be fettered in some way, it needs to be slowly and reasonably,” he said.

Other Kentucky politicians who have supported lifting restrictions on Cuba include Republican Congressmen James Comer and Thomas Massie, and Republican U.S. Senator Rand Paul.

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