Opportunities for Iowa and Cuba

At age 63, I wouldn’t change the years I have lived for anything. For example, in 1994 my family and I were traveling in Europe and entered the former East Germany. It was like going from color television to black and white. The bleached out buildings were reminders of what the post-World War II years were like for the people of that area. It was a marked contrast to the world I grew up in.

One of the times when I was most frightened was in October of 1962. I was 10 years old the night President Kennedy appeared on television and outlined the Cuban Missile Crisis. Each night when I went to bed, I wondered if our world would exist when the sun rose. Day after day, the world seemed to be on the brink of war as President Kennedy blocked passage to Cuba and Premier Khrushchev countered. For several days, it appeared hopeless and finally diplomacy won out.

Then in 1971, while I was a ranch hand in Nebraska, President Nixon announced that he was traveling to China and efforts were beginning to normalize relations with the most populated country in the world. A country that had been closed to us since 1949.

The years in between had been filled with fears of Soviet invasions. People had built bomb shelters, stocked food, and counseled their families on ideas of how to survive in a cold war world that could break out in war at any time. The peace on the Korean peninsula held by the thread and the memory of the Chinese entering the Korean War weighed heavily on people’s minds.

This is not to suggest that there are not current threats to our liberties. There are and we should stand firmly with our military members who are keeping the peace around the world.

If someone had told me, during those troubled years, that I would be part of one of the first delegations to Cuba following the easing of relations between our two countries, I would not have believed them. But on Oct. 2, 2015, I will be accompanying many Iowans when we fly from Miami to Havana and enter a different world.

The opportunities are great for an improved relationship between these two countries that are just 90 miles apart. Cuba offers medical advancements in the area of diabetes management and other diseases. There is the potential for scientific exchanges in the compounding of medicines. They offer technology on how to maintain older farm and automotive equipment. This is a nation that imports about 80 percent of its food and of the meat consumed about 80 percent of it is pork. Iowa is, of course, the biggest producer of pork. It is an opportunity for both nations to establish mutually beneficial trade. It is a chance for peace.

This is not to say we should ignore human rights violations. This is not to say we should let down our guard when it comes to any actions that destabilizes peace in the Western Hemisphere. We, as a nation, stand for freedom and justice, and these aspects of our society should continue to be prominent in all our actions. Since the Monroe Doctrine, we have stood for peace in our hemisphere. The Latin Summit on the Americas and other diplomatic efforts have served us well and will continue to do as we enter into this new phase of relationships.

Currently, demand for some Iowa manufactured farm machinery is down. Expanding markets for Iowa goods will give our economy a boost and create jobs across the state. The opportunities for potential trade with Cuba also hold much promise for Iowa. While there, it will be my great honor to promote the exceptional quality of Iowa goods and services.

Thank you for all of your supportive comments and ideas as we pursue this adventure that hopefully improves the lives of the good hard working people of both Iowa and Cuba.

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State Rep. Mark Smith can be reached at (641) 750-9278 or by email: mark.smith@legis.iowa.gov Terrace in Marshalltown, by telephone at: 750-9278 or by email: mark.smith@legis.iowa.gov.