Next week Barack Obama will visit Cuba, the first sitting U.S. president to visit the island nation since Calvin Coolidge back in 1928.
On the trip with him: two of Minnesota's U.S. lawmakers.
WCCO reports Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Tom Emmer will be part of the president's contingent.
Why those two?
Klobuchar's been a vocal leader in the recent push to end the U.S. trade embargo, which would open up business channels with Cuba for the first time in decades. In fact the Democrat visited Cuba about a year ago, and was treated like a mini celebrity as she walked down the streets – with her legislation to end the embargo introduced just before her visit.
As for Emmer, a Republican in his first term, he put forward his own embargo-ending bill just a few months later.
"Along with the Cuban people, Americans are ready for a fresh start and new opportunities for increasing trade, advancing the cause of human rights and ushering in direly needed reforms," he said in a statement at the time.
In January, the Star Tribune put together a story about how Emmer was taking the lead on Cuba, trying to convince fellow Republicans to get on board after seeing how much ending the embargo could help the country's residents.
The bills by both Emmer and Klobuchar have support from members of the other party.
Big news outlets such as CNN are calling Obama's upcoming March 21-22 trip historic, with Fox News saying the president is hoping to firm up the United State's relationship before he leaves office – keeping it strong for years to come.
Apparently however some Republican lawmakers aren't too happy with it, Politico reported.
Minnesota and Cuba
Since the U.S. restored diplomatic relations with Cuba last December,Minnesota has been frequently involved in developments.
- Last spring it was the Minnesota Orchestra that traveled to Cuba for a well received concert series.
- Sen. Al Franken met with Cuban officials just a few months after his colleague, Klobuchar, visited.
- Gov. Mark Dayton joined eight of his peers around the country in asking Congress to lift the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba.
- Some state legislators made a trip there, though not as an official delegation; and the St. Olaf Jazz Band got an invite to play in Cuba as well.
- Earlier this month, Sun Country said it was applying to start nonstop flights from Minnesota to Havana. Charter flights to the country started last year.
A big reason for the push is business. Franken and Klobuchar have both cited the trade possibilities for Minnesota as reasons they support ending the embargo.
The Star Tribune reported the North Star State currently exports about $20 million worth of products per year to Cuba, due to a humanitarian waiver – but Klobuchar expects that to double if trade opens up.
Private businesses expressed similar expectations when Obama’s maneuver was first announced.
In total, the U.S. exported $350 million in agriculture products to Cuba, according to figures from 2013.