In 1999, Governor George Ryan (R-IL) was the first sitting U.S. governor to take an official delegation to Cuba.
That trip was sponsored by the Illinois-based Caterpillar Inc., Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and other agri-business interests.
A decade later, The State-Journal Register would write, "10 years later, Ryan’s trip to Cuba has had little impact on Illinois."
Since then, dozens of official trips have been taken to Cuba by sitting U.S. governors. Also, with nothing to show for it -- other than wining and dining with Castro regime officials.
Since Obama's December 17, 2014, new policy announcement, there have been three trips -- by Governors Andrew Cuomo (D-NY), Asa Hutchinson (R-AR) and now, Greg Abbott (R-TX).
Today's trip by Texas Governor Abbott was organized by Cynthia Thomas, a Dallas-based lobbyist, who told The Texas Tribune, “This’ll be my 39th trip to Cuba since 2000.”
While Cuomo's trip was meant to bring ideological backing to Obama's policy, Hutchinson and Abbott's trip share a commodity interest -- rice.
Arkansas and Texas are top rice producing states. Meanwhile, the rice lobby has been the tip of the spear in lobbying efforts to ease Cuba sanctions.
Yet, all three Governors share the poor taste in how their trips have been executed. They have focused solely on meetings with Castro regime officials and monopolies run by its infamous military and security services.
We love rice. And if Castro has cash, sell him all your rice -- and take his cash. That's less cash Castro has to cause harm upon the Cuban people and conduct nefarious activities.
But let's be honest about the facts.
Every single "foreign trade" transaction with Cuba has to be made with a Castro-owned entity. The Cuban regime's exclusive right to trade and control investment is enshrined in Article 18 of Fidel Castro's 1976 Constitution.
Congress authorized “cash-in-advance” sales of U.S. agricultural product to Cuba in the 2000 Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act. More than 250 privately-owned American companies have since sold $4 billion in agricultural products to Cuba. All of those sales were to a single buyer: the Cuban government.
As the U.S. Department of Agriculture itself notes, “The key difference in exporting to Cuba, compared to other countries in the region, is that all U.S. agricultural exports must be channeled through one Cuban government agency, ALIMPORT."
In other words, the "Cuban market" is composed of only one entity -- ALIMPORT.
Ironically, since Obama's new policy, the Castro regime has cut U.S. agricultural cash purchases by over 50%.
Why? In order to blackmail the Obama Administration, and the U.S. Congress, to provide financing to its monopoly.
If Governors Hutchinson and Abbott want to serve as tools in Castro's blackmail -- that's up to their conscience.
But don't insult our intelligence with claims that financing Castro's monopolies will "export freedom," benefit the Cuban people or promote regional democracy.
That's utter nonsense -- no matter how good your rice is.