Republican Representative Roger Marshall of Kansas released an op-ed in The High Plains Journal reflecting on his recent three-day trip to Cuba with a congressional delegation that included representatives James Comer of Kentucky, Jack Bergman of Michigan, and Jason Lewis and Tom Emmer of Minnesota.
Marshall was pleased with the visit and talked about how the U.S.’s current policy of isolation has failed in Cuba. He said the 50-year-old embargo only serves to generate animosity toward the U.S. and to “arbitrarily limit” U.S. citizens chances to engage with Cubans.
“The moves over the last two years toward greater engagement are already paying dividends in peoples’ hearts and minds. Folks there are getting a taste of capitalism, and are craving more,” Marshall wrote. “Greater engagement in Cuba can lead to positive changes. Americans and Cubans have a great deal in common; the importance of family, a strong sense of patriotism and entrepreneurship. These commonalities will only become greater as we continue to engage, and Cuba continues to modernize.”
Marshall showed support for the thawing of relations with Cuba and spoke of how important opening an export market in Cuba could be for farmers and ranchers in Kansas. He described the island nation as a “potential top-10 wheat market.”
In Rep. Marshall’s view, the next logical step following the policy changes made by former U.S. President Barack Obama would be to allow banks and financial institutions in the U.S. to provide financing to Cuba. To that end, he announced his support of the H.R. 525 bill, the Cuba Agricultural Exports Act, that was introduced on January 13 by Rep. Eric Crawford.
The Cuba Agricultural Exports Act seeks to modify the prohibition on U.S. assistance and financing of certain exports to Cuba. If passed, the bill would allow U.S. citizens to export agricultural commodities to the island, which reportedly imports almost 80% of its food.
Marshall’s delegation is the second one to visit Cuba this year. A bipartisan delegation led by Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont traveled to the island in February for a three-day business forum to discuss relations between the U.S. and Cuba and explore future trade opportunities between the two nations.
Republican Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi, who was part of Leahy’s delegation, oversaw the signing of trade agreements between two Mississippi ports, the ports of Pascagoula and Gulfport, and Cuba. Similar agreements were signed by Virginia, Alabama, and Louisiana in January.
The two delegations have received criticism for their apparent lack of concern for the human rights violations that are taking place on the island. Republican Rep. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen vocally criticized the delegations for visiting Cuba without taking the time to meet opponents of the ruling party.
“Will they have the courage to do it or do they just want an excursion to make Cuba attractive?” Ros-Lehtinen asked in a speech. The congresswoman has plans to propose a bill to call the U.S. to withdraw from the U.N. Human Rights Council, of which Cuba is a member, because it ignores the human rights abuses of the governments of Syria, Cuba, and China.