Editorials

NC will gain from better US relations with Cuba

President Barack Obama talks with Cuban President Raul Castro before a bilateral meeting, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015, at the United Nations headquarters.
President Barack Obama talks with Cuban President Raul Castro before a bilateral meeting, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015, at the United Nations headquarters. AP

Republicans used President Obama’s trip to Cuba as another reason to bash him, but if it had been made by a Republican president, Obama’s opponents would have cheered it as a master stroke of diplomacy, and gone along with the common sense behind the president’s call for easing the 50-year trade ban with a country 90 miles from the U.S. border.

Yes, Fidel Castro was a dictator and a communist ally of the old Soviet Union. Yes, Cuba helped bring the world to the brink of nuclear war in its alliance with the Soviets through the Cuban missile crisis during the Kennedy administration. But as Obama (and he’s hardly alone) has said, the embargo has ceased to be a productive part of diplomacy. It is time to change.

And the old partisan objections, there’s evidence that U.S. economy – including the North Carolina economy – could could benefit from easing relations with Cuba

Already, The News & Observer’s Under the Dome reports, the North Carolina’s agricultural products are exported to the island through an exception to the embargo for agriculture and pharmaceuticals. A recent study found the meat producers in this state may benefit to the tune of $8.4 million. The state exports chicken, turkey, grains and soybeans.

David Price of Chapel Hill and North Carolina’s 4th Congressional District was along on the president’s trip to Cuba last week. He underlined the notion, perhaps for some of his Republican colleagues, that it’s foolish to maintain the Cold War embargo: “People need to understand their constituents stand to gain here.”

Jeff Ensminger, who founded a state nonprofit group that works on sustainable farming, which is more efficient and environmentally friendly, says Cuban farmers are more expert at sustainable farming because they had to be, lacking access to chemical fertilizers, for one example. Small farmers in the U.S. could learn from that, he said. And, he noted Cuba’s climate is agreeable for growing things that can’t be adequately grown in the United States.

Cuban physicians could benefit from training in the U.S. as well, and UNC-Chapel Hill is already talking about an exchange with Cuba involving its school of public health. Then there are the other benefits: airlines would get a boost from air travel; Cuba could be a place to make farm equipment.

There is no question that Fidel Castro’s Cuba, born of revolution, now run by his brother Raul, has been guilty of human rights violations and an avowed enemy of the United States.

But the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the in effect retirement of Fidel Castro opens the way for a more realistic and yes, beneficial, relations between the United States and Cuba. And North Carolina.

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