McAuliffe, in Havana, says Obama ‘should come and will come visit Cuba’
By Laura Vozzella January 5 at 7:08 PM
HAVANA — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Tuesday boosted hopes that
President Obama will visit Cuba before his term is up, telling an
audience of Cuban and foreign reporters, “I’d be surprised if he didn’t
“This is a major legacy item for President Obama,” McAuliffe (D) said,
wrapping up a trade mission that highlighted Virginia’s decade-long
trading history with the communist nation as well as the recent
U.S.-Cuban detente. “I believe the president should come and will come
The White House has said such a trip is under consideration, but it is
by no means certain.
McAuliffe’s news conference took place at the Port of Mariel. Site of a
massive 1980 exodus, the port represents Cuba’s desire to become a hub
for international trade, thanks to a $1 billion modernization project
largely bankrolled by Brazil.
At the port, about 25 miles west of Havana, officials from Mariel and
the Port of Virginia formally pledged to explore ways to work together.
The event concluded McAuliffe’s three-day trip here, the first by a
sitting Virginia governor.
After wooing Cuban ministry officials, McAuliffe said he was heading
home to play salesman to seemingly tougher customers: congressional
Republicans opposed to fully normalizing relations with a Cold War
McAuliffe, who is vice chairman of the National Governors Association,
said he would be in Washington on Thursday, pressing for a full end to
what he called the United States’s “foolish” trade embargo against Cuba.
“I’ll be meeting with the speaker of the House of Representatives, the
Senate majority leader, other members of the House and Senate, as well
as administration officials,” he said. “And I will clearly use that
opportunity to say, ‘2016 needs to be the year that we move our
relationship forward, that we end this embargo, and we do the right
thing for the citizens of the United States of America and the citizens
McAuliffe has made expanding and diversifying Virginia’s economy the
chief focus of his administration, with foreign trade and investment a
large part of that. Virginia Republicans who have vigorously fought some
of his liberal policy goals, such as expanding Medicaid under the
Affordable Care Act and tightening gun control, have been on board with
his economic development efforts, though some take issue with particular
“Cuban officials want us to come and do business,” the governor said
Tuesday. “It is now up to us to do our work back in Washington to make
sure our Virginia businesses can effectively do business here in Cuba.”
Just two deals were officially inked during McAuliffe’s Cuba trip — and
both are nonbinding. The port agreement was a memorandum of
understanding under which officials in Cuba and Virginia agreed to look
for ways to cooperate. Both ports are eager to become major hubs for the
huge “post-Panamax” ships that will be coming when the Panama Canal
expansion project is completed.
On Monday, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe drove a 1956 pink Chevrolet
Bel Air named Lola to various places in Havana, to the dismay of his
security detail. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)
The other completed deal was also a memorandum of understanding, in
which Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Havana
promised to explore academic exchanges and joint research projects.
Most of the 20 business leaders traveling with McAuliffe’s delegation
were visiting Cuba for the first time, feeling out an entirely foreign
market and harboring no illusions about striking gold on this trip.
Several said they had made promising headway and expected to continue
working toward deals of their own.
“We’ve had great meetings with folks who want to sell wood flooring, who
want to open up a manufacturing facility here, who want to start
agriculture farms here,” McAuliffe said. “This visit is to make it clear
to every Cuban official and every Cuban citizen that the Commonwealth of
Virginia wants to be your largest trading partner. .?.?. We have an
opening. It’s now incumbent upon us in America to make sure we’re
opening that door wide enough.”
Laura Vozzella covers Virginia politics for The Washington Post.
Source: McAuliffe, in Havana, says Obama ‘should come and will come
visit Cuba’ – The Washington Post –