Jeffords trip to Cuba aims to increase agricultural trade

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(Host) Senator Jim Jeffords is leaving Friday evening for Cuba on an agricultural trade mission. Jeffords says the U.S.’s current trade embargo with Cuba is an outdated foreign policy that no longer makes any sense.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Ten days after he announced that he’s not seeking re-election to another term in the U.S. Senate, Senator Jim Jeffords is leading an informal trade mission to Cuba. Jeffords will be in Cuba for six days and plans to meet a number of government officials – including the minister of Foreign Relations, the minister of Trade and the president of the Cuban National Assembly. While in Cuba, Jeffords also plans to meet with representatives of a Catholic charity group that works with low income women.

Jeffords is hoping to build on trade projects developed by Lt. Governor Brian Dubie and Vermont Agriculture Secretary Steve Kerr. He notes that this is not his first trip to Cuba:

(Jeffords) “I spent a lot of time there in the Navy, that was one of our little ports that we used to sneak our little destroyer into. But mainly it’s the history that Vermont has with Cuba with trade especially, with dairy products and now fruit and other things. So it’s a very beautiful country and it’s a wealthy place. So we want to drag some money back.”

(Kinzel) Jeffords says he believes the United States should lift its trade embargo with Cuba; it’s a policy that was implemented over 40 years ago with the rise of Communist leader Fidel Castro. Jeffords doesn’t support a continuation of the embargo:

(Jeffords) “No – that’s a very short answer to I realize an important question but I think trade embargo doesn’t make any sense at all. We’re two different countries but we have many common interests and we can share with the wealth of each of us by working together. I think those days have past and we ought to be looking towards sensible relationship.”

(Kinzel) Jeffords’ trip is being paid for by the Center for International Policy, a Washington-based organization that encourages expanded trade and cultural exchanges with Cuba.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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