WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) released the following statement today after returning from a Congressional Delegation trip to Cuba last week. Grijalva was joined on the trip by fellow Congressman John Larson (D-CT), as well as Senators Tom Udall (NM) and Al Franken (MN). The delegation returned to the United States one day before Cuba wasremoved from the United States’ list of state sponsors of terrorism.
“Visiting Cuba in person was an opportunity to see first-hand the many ways our nations can mutually benefit from open relations,” said Rep. Grijalva. “We are the only nation in our hemisphere that doesn’t deal with Cuba, and that has to change if we want to develop a mutually prosperous relationship with this neighbor just 90 miles off our coastline. President Obama has taken significant actions to normalize relations with Cuba. Now Congress must act to fully end the decades-old trade and travel embargo.”
The Congressional delegation met with officials from Cuba’s ministry of agriculture, and learned of key opportunities for American businesses, including many specific to Arizona.
“As Cuba opens its markets, it’s vital that Arizona’s agricultural, technological and business leaders engage in the new opportunities that develop,” Grijalva continued. “Cuba needs farming equipment and agricultural goods – with Yuma providing 90 percent of our nation’s lettuce and leafy vegetables harvest in winter, our community is uniquely positioned to benefit from trade with Cuba.”
Lawmakers also met with Etecsa, a telecommunications company in Cuba, to learn about technological challenges and goals for the island nation.
“Only 20 percent of Cubans have access to the internet right now,” said Grijalva. “They want to extend the promise of open internet to 60 percent of their population by 2020, but that will require access to computers and electronics that they don’t currently have. Once again, Arizonans have an opportunity here, with computers and electronics being our largest merchandise export category, accounting for $5 billion of our state’s merchandise exports in 2014.”
Grijalva’s trip also coincided with the 12th edition of the Havana Biennial, an art exhibition devoted to showcasing the works of artists from Latin America. This year’s marks the first iteration since the announced normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba.
“The Havana Biennial is a perfect example of the cultural exchange of ideas that Americans are mostly excluded from right now,” added Rep. Grijalva. “Art can play a vital role in breaking down barriers between the United States and Cuba, and I’m encouraged that collaborations between artists in both nations will only grow stronger as relations normalize.”
Photographs from the trip are available here.