The Republican presidential field may not like President Obama’s announcement he will travel to Cuba next month but U.S. Senator John Boozman of Arkansas welcomes the step. The Republican told KUAR he supports the president’s efforts to normalize relations with Cuba.
“I’m very supportive of him going," said Boozman. "We haven’t gotten any place doing what we’ve done. I’m very much in favor of making it such that we have a relationship with Cuba, trading with Cuba. When you trade you’re not only trading goods and services but you’re trading ideas and values."
“The other thing is that you have to be consistent. We trade with a lot worse people than the Cubans like the Saudi Arabians, the Chinese, Vietnamese – when you’re looking at human rights and things like that. I’m glad that he’s going. It would be great for Arkansas in the sense of trade it also would be very, very good for the Cuban people.”
Boozman’s support of increased ties with the communist nation is not isolated in Arkansas. Many of the state’s top Republican officials, U.S. Senator Tom Cotton is a notable exception, are in favor of more trade with Cuba.
Governor Asa Hutchinson traveled to Cuba in September and has called on Congress to easy credit restrictions. U.S. Representative Rick Crawford announced earlier this month he intends to travel to Cuba for the purpose of furthering trade tied primarily to Arkansas’s rice and poultry industries.
Boozman’s support is not a new development, though the President’s trip to Cuba would be historic. Last April, KUAR interviewed Boozman before President Obama met with Raul Castro at the Summit of the Americas in Panama. The senator applauded moves from the White House, “I think the President has shown leadership in opening up Cuba.”
The U.S. has had a trade embargo on Cuba for over 55 years. It followed Cuba’s decision to nationalize oil refineries owned by American citizens, two years after the communist Castro regime took power, and escalated after the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Boozman faces a primary challenge from Curtis Coleman on March 1.
Sen. Boozman's comments on Cuba came during an interview for a different story expected to air next week.