Ag sales shouldn’t be affected by Castro’s exitFARGO — North Dakota’s ability to sell agricultural products to Cuba shouldn’t be hurt by Cuban President Fidel Castro’s decision to step down after nearly 50 years in power, said state Agriculture Com-missioner Roger Johnson.
By: John Knutson, The Forum
FARGO — North Dakota’s ability to sell agricultural products to Cuba shouldn’t be hurt by Cuban President Fidel Castro’s decision to step down after nearly 50 years in power, said state Agriculture Com-missioner Roger Johnson.
“I’ve had no indication our relationship will change,” said Johnson, who’s in Cuba leading a 12-person state trade mission.
Johnson made his comments Wednesday morning in a conference call with the news media. Castro’s resignation was announced Tuesday.
This is the seventh trade mission Johnson has led to Cuba.
Though America’s long-standing embargo stops most trade between the two countries, the previous trips produced about $30 million of combined sales of North Dakota ag products, primarily peas.
The current trade mission left Sunday and will return Friday.
Johnson said he expects to announce today new sales of state ag products to Cuba.
Rising commodity prices, some of which stand at record highs, are a factor in what and how much Cuba will buy, he said.
He said he hasn’t seen any sign that Cuban policies in general will change because Castro is stepping down, paving the way for Raul Castro, Fidel’s younger brother, to assume control.
But Johnson said Raul Castro appears to be less of a hands-on, detail-oriented leader than his brother.
Fargo activist Lewis Lubka – who described himself as an “independent thinker” and “left-learning person of peace” – said Castro has been an excellent leader.
“He’s a brilliant man. He’s George Washington and Abe Lincoln rolled into one. He’s the father of his country,” he said of Castro.
Lubka isn’t on the 12-person state trade trip. He visited Cuba in 1979 and 1980, but didn’t meet Castro.
Lubka, who noted that he’s one month older than the 81-year-old Castro, said he doesn’t expect any fundamental change in Cuban policy because Castro is stepping down.
The United States, not Cuba, controls whether relations between the two countries will improve, Lubka said.
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