(Reuters) New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, is the first governor to visit Cuba since a December announcement by Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro that they would restore diplomatic relations and work to normalize trade and travel ties after more than a half century of hostility and confrontation.
Cuomo termed the agreement “courageous” in opening remarks to a business conference and said, “We want to do everything we can to help.”
Cuomo was joined by top executives from JetBlue Airways Corp., Pfizer Inc. and MasterCard Inc., who were among 18 business leaders and academics on the trip.
Cuomo said the purpose of his visit was to see what can be done now and look to the future should full trade be restored.
He also mixed in some fun, drinking a mojito at the Hotel Nacional, while Cuban officials gave him what he said was his first ever Cuban cigar. Cuomo joked that if he rushed through his speech, he would have time to smoke it.
As part of a deal hammered out over 18 months of secret talks, the Obama administration has loosened travel regulations, opened the door to some financial services, trade in information technology, aviation and other sectors and announced it will eliminate Cubafrom the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.