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All eyes on Cuba in wake of Fidel Castro’s death

The world history books marked the death of Fidel Castro, at the age of 90, last week. Some are mourning the loss of the “revolutionary icon” — a term used by many U.S. media outlets. Many others are celebrating the death of a tyrant who stole family businesses, locked up those who spoke out against him and killed even more who got in his way.

Love him or hate him, with the death of Castro, the agricultural community is watching and waiting to see what moves President-Elect Donald Trump will make once he takes office.

Will he undo the executive orders President Barack Obama made to loosen up travel and trade for American tourists and businesses to enjoy in Cuba? Or will relations with Cuba strengthen under Cuba’s current leadership, Raul Castro, at the helm?

In a statement made following the news of Castro’s death, Trump said, “Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights. Though the tragedies, deaths and pain caused by Fidel Castro cannot be erased, our administration will do all it can to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty.”

READ: Trump condemns Castro as ‘brutal dictator,’ by David Jackson for USA Today

Later, Trump indicated his intentions on future relations with Cuba by tweeting, “If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal.”

While the future is uncertain, Yahoo Finance is bullish on what’s ahead for Cuba as the Herzfeld Caribbean Basin Fund, Inc. (CUBA) is surging in the marketplace with a 12% return on Monday.

READ: ‘CUBA’ is surging following Fidel Castro’s death, by Melody Hahm for Yahoo Finance

Some members of the GOP are pushing for an easement of Cuba trade relations, which would benefit agricultural businesses in the U.S. However, Republican Florida Senator Marco Rubio, whose parents were born in Cuba, backs Trump’s strict policy with Cuba.

According to, Rubio sat down for an interview with CNN’s State of the Union over the weekend and stressed the importance of the U.S. focusing on its own security while encouraging Cuba to move toward democratic policies.

In the interview, Rubio said, “We should examine our policy toward Cuba through those lenses. And if there's a policy that helps that, it remains in place. And if it's a policy that doesn't, it's removed.”

READ: Trump’s threat to end Cuba detente may rouse GOP opposition by AP reporter Richard Lardner

The U.S. agricultural community is speaking out on their hopes for Cuban-American relations going forward.

Gene Hall, Texas Farm Bureau director of public relations, recently wrote about his previous trade missions to Cuba saying, “Our group included a congressman, Texas rice industry officials and Texas rice farmers. Castro was charming and gracious. I reminded myself of political prisoners locked up not far away and, of course, the Cuban Missile Crisis, played out when I was a terrified 8-year-old child. Cuba has potential as a neighbor and trading partner, but communism is the one obstacle it will never be able to overcome. Castro’s sins should be buried with him as both sides look forward to a better day.”

Meanwhile, Kevin Paap, Minnesota Farm Bureau president said in a recent interview with Dow Jones Business News, “Every other country in the world has diplomatic and trade relations with Cuba, and what we don't want to do is lose that market share to the European Union, Brazil, Argentina.”

I’m curious to know what the beef industry community thinks will happen following the death of Castro. Do you think Trump will be firm on requiring the Cuban regime to allow more religious and business freedoms before trade relations can continue? Do you think rural America would benefit from a normalization of trade with Cuba? Do you see the U.S. embargo coming to a full and complete end? Do you think Raul Castro, who has said he plans to step down in 2018, will loosen the reins or pass on the baton to a more democratic leader?

There are many unanswered questions to think about. Time will tell. In the meantime, let me know your opinions in the comments section below.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or Penton Agriculture.

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