Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Abbott: Texas Ready to Deal if Cuba Embargo Lifted

By Aman Batheja

While Gov. Greg Abbott hasn't outright called for repeal of the United States' decades-old trade embargo with Cuba, he made clear to Cubans Tuesday that Texas is ready to jump at the business opportunity if it happens.

Abbott met with officials from the Cuban Export-Import Corporation (CIMEX), the nation’s largest commercial corporation, on the second day of a three-day economic development trip to the communist nation.

“While we are waiting for that decision from the federal government, Texas wants to begin the process of building relationships with business leaders like CIMEX so that we will be well prepared to act swiftly to the mutual benefit of CIMEX and Texas," Abbott said, according to a pool report from the Austin American-Statesman.

During a separate meeting Tuesday with Alexis Trujillo Morejón, Cuba's deputy minster of tourism, Abbott said Texas was interested in expanding travel and tourism with Cuba, according to the report. To Trujillo's suggestion that the best way to do that would be lifting the trade embargo, Abbott responded that his influence was limited.

But one of Abbott's travel companions, Saba Abashawl, chief external affairs officer for the Houston Airport System, said Abbott was being modest and that his trip to Cuba "sends a very strong message to Washington."

Abbott smiled and nodded, according to the pool report.

Abbott's comments mark a sharp contrast with his fellow Texas Republican and long-time political ally, presidential hopeful and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who was critical of President Obama's decision last year to normalize relations with Cuba. Cruz, who is of Cuban descent, decried Obama's move last year as providing "international legitimacy and a badly needed economic lifeline" to Fidel and Raul Castro," who he described as "brutal dictators." Cruz declined requests for comment last week on Abbott's decision to travel to Cuba.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune.

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