Cuban Ambassador visits city of Houston, Texas

Image: Exchange between agribusiness leaders, members of the Texas Department of Agriculture and the Cuban diplomats.

The Cuban Ambassador to the United States, José R. Cabañas and Counselor to the Embassy Rodney A. Gonzalez visited the city of Houston, 24-27 February, 2019, following an invitation from Cuban-origin lawyer Felix Chevalier, with Chevalier Law Firm, to attend the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Feb. 25-March 17, one of the Worlds ´largest events of its kind. Passion for the Rodeo is only one many aspects shared between Houston and Cuba. With its own characteristics, Havana’s Rancho Boyeros will host March 16-24, the XXII International Agro-industrial Food Fair Fiagrop 2019, dedicated to the development program of Cuban cattle. Texas cattle raisers expressed to the visitors their willingness to help Cuba develop its own cattle livestock.

Texas has been one of many states taking benefit from US openings with Cuba since December 17, 2014. Governor Greg Abbott landed in Havana on September 2016 leading a business development mission of two-dozen Texans looking to reintroduce Texas agricultural products to a growing Cuban market. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner led a similar delegation October 2016, joined by authorities with the Greater Houston Partnership, the Houston Aviation System, and city Council Members, among others. “We can’t say that Houston is a world class city unless we are reaching out and establishing international relationships,” said Mayor Turner, the first Houston Mayor to ever visit Cuba .

While Houston is already one the cities offering non stops flights to Havana, its Port  Authority (PHA) is looking for ways to better implement a Memorandum of Understanding with the Cuban Maritime Administration and encourage prosperous, sustainable commercial exchange. During the signing of the document in 2017, The PHA´s Commercial Development Manager, Ricardo Arias said that there is special interest from US exporters to sell its products to Cuba and want to establish regular services with the Port of Mariel.

More than two years later, the top Cuban diplomat in the US witnessed that the Houston community´s desire for more mutually-beneficial collaboration and social, economic exchanges remains unchanged. The diplomats reciprocated the warm hospitality extended by inviting the hosts to visit Cuba to continue identifying areas of potential cooperation. Great interest generated Cuba´s Center of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB)-developed products to improve humans and animals health, particularly those to fight cattle ticks and other species, which are a scourge in the State, gaining the attention of local and federal authorities.

All parties agreed that the United States current Cuba policy negatively impacts ordinary Cubans' living standards and hinders bilateral economic opportunities. A consensus was also self-evident that the future of US-Cuba relations has to be one of mutual respect and growing interactions, according to the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Americans, including those of Cuban  origin. Certainly, Houstonians are taking the lead.

Image: Leaders with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Committee join Cuban Ambassador José R. Cabañas (center).

Image: An unexpected, pleasant event occurred when Olympics and World Championships track and field legend Carl Lewis entered the NRG Park, where the Rodeo takes place. Lewis had words of appreciation for Cuban athletes.

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