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Minnesota Congressman Visits Cuba

January 25, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A Minnesota congressman plans to push for an agricultural trade mission to Cuba this year with an eye toward ultimately lifting the U.S. trade embargo against the communist country.

Rep. Dave Minge made a one-day trip to Cuba last weekend and met with commerce and foreign ministries officials.

``This trip has motivated me to take a keen interest in the embargo problem, and try to end the embargo and open normal relations with Cuba,″ the four-term Democrat said in an interview Tuesday. ``I think it’s counterproductive. ... The Cold War is over.″

The United States severed diplomatic relations with Cuba in January 1961, two years after Fidel Castro’s rise to power, and initiated a trade embargo in 1962. Travel to and from the country is restricted by the U.S. government, but athletic, cultural and academic exchanges have been allowed.

The Clinton administration has consistently opposed ending the embargo, and all major presidential candidates have taken similar stands.

Still, many farm-state lawmakers in both parties would like to see the embargo lifted. They see the nation of 11 million people as a potential market at a time of falling farm prices.

Minge, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, said Cuban officials told him their country imports $62 million worth of powdered milk, $50 million worth of beans and peas, $80 million worth of soy products and $77 million worth of corn each year.

But before anything can change, ``the situation with the little boy needs to be resolved,″ Minge said, referring to an international tug of war over 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez, who was rescued at sea after his mother and stepfather drowned trying to reach the United States.

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