It's been several weeks since President Obama made a major foreign policy announcement, one which shook up decades of a longstanding American diplomatic posture: the United States is normalizing relations with Cuba, a move that's spurred cheers and plaudits from many quarters (a majority of the American public support the idea) while rankling some conservative politicos. Now, a very high-profile Democratic politician is reportedly planning a trip to the Communist island nation — New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's trade mission to Cuba would mark a major step in normalizing relations, and shows that prominent Democrats aren't shying away from Obama's new policy, they're embracing it.
Cuomo, 57, won't be the first American official to make a trek to Cuba under these new, eased tensions — that honor goes to Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, along with a group of four Democratic Senators and 2 Representatives, who're making the trip this weekend. Leahy was integrally involved in the process that paved the way for Obama's announcement, having travelled to Cuba to help secure the release of American political prisoner Alan Gross in December.
But news that Cuomo will also be making the trek is significant, not least of all because he's widely considered a potential presidential aspirant. There are few better ways to judge the discipline of a political party than to see how willing its power players are to embrace a potentially controversial new policy. And to this point, it's looking like the Democrats are lining up resolutely behind the President.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Cuomo is planning to announce the trip Wednesday, and should be touching down in Cuba at some point in the next few months. It's reportedly one of five other trade missions Cuomo is planning throughout his second term as Governor of New York, and will be the first one he actually embarks upon.
To be clear, the normalization policies announced by President Obama on Dec. 17 aren't as sweeping and iron-clad as they might be. The trade embargo between the U.S. and Cuba, which has been in effect for a staggering 54 years, requires an act of Congress to actually be ended. While public opinion polls rather decisively in favor of ending the embargo — a Pew poll found that 66 percent of Americans want it gone — the GOP-controlled House and Senate likely feel differently.
Relations between the U.S. and Cuba have historically loomed large in presidential politics, for a very good reason. Florida tends to be a pivotal swing state, controlling a whopping 29 electoral votes, and it's also home to a large population of anti-Castro Cuban expatriates. Obviously, it's unlikely that this is a situation Cuomo seriously has cause to sweat, since he's almost surely not going to end up as the Democratic nominee, even if he runs (it's hard to imagine what he offers that presumed frontrunner Hillary Clinton doesn't), but it's a significant statement all the same.
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