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Friday, January 15, 2021

Texas governor makes little progress on Cuba business trip

HAVANA (AP) — Gov. Greg Abbott enjoyed dinner and a private concert in Havana but made little progress in finding opportunities for Texas businesses on the second day of a three-day trip to Cuba.

The Texas Republican was at least the third U.S. governor to travel to Cuba since the declaration of detente with the U.S. last year. He appeared to be trying to maintain a low profile, announcing the trip at the last minute and declining to speak with international media based in Cuba.

According to the pool report by a Texas-based reporter traveling with Abbott, the governor dined and watched a concert at one of the capital’s high-end private restaurants Monday evening but was told by Cuban officials Tuesday that there were little opportunities for businesses from his state on the island at the moment.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York announced several deals with Cuban state enterprises when he was here last April, but in recent months Cuban officials have been using visits by U.S. politicians as opportunities to advocate for Congress to lift the half-century-old trade embargo on Cuba.

There has been little response from Congress, leaving Cuba-U.S. trade frozen in almost every area except tourism, which has flooded Cuban businesses with hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue but has yet to generate many returns for American firms.

After arriving Monday, Abbott and his delegation enjoyed a meal in the high-end Miramar neighborhood that began with mojitos and ended with flan and espresso, according to the pool report.

On Tuesday, they traveled to Cuba’s new Mariel port and free trade zone, where they were told by Cuban officials that the embargo meant there was no opportunity for U.S. businesses to invest there.

Abbott told the officials that “Texas has an abundance of (rice and other products) and a very easy ability to export from Texas to Cuba,” according to the pool report.

The port officials responded that Cuba would buy rice from other sources, primarily Vietnam, until the U.S. allowed the communist-run island to buy on credit, a measure currently prohibited by the embargo.

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