New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson met with Ricardo Alarcón, president of Cuba’s parliament, as well as members of the island’s chamber of commerce as he headed a trade mission there last week. He visited Deputy Foreign Minister Dagoberto Rodríguez, Cuban Chamber of Commerce President Pedro Alvarez, and Igor Montero, president of Alimport, the Cuban government agency responsible for agricultural commerce.
Richardson released a statement saying his delegation held “productive discussions” promoting the idea of exporting potatoes, wheat, apples, and beef from New Mexico to Cuba. Although the United States has subjected Cuba to an embargo since 1962, therefore exerting control on access to products and hampering international trade in Cuba, U.S. states are authorized to sell agricultural and certain other products to the island.
Richardson, formerly a U.S. lawmaker and diplomat who has been a frequent special envoy in diplomatic crises, said that Washington should do more to improve its relationship with Havana. The New Mexico governor, who grew up partly in Mexico City and is fluent in Spanish, said that before big-ticket items such as ending the U.S. economic embargo on Cuba, having the U.S. give back the Guantanamo Bay base it holds against Havana’s will, or having Cuba release political prisoners, smaller steps were necessary first, such as on humanitarian issues.
The articles available did not specify to which humanitarian issues Richardson was referring or whether he was suggesting reciprocity in the release of political prisoners in future agreements between the U.S. and Cuba.