Texas Governor Greg Abbott is in Cuba on a mission to promote trade between Cuba and the State of Texas. Many were surprised with the announcement last week that Abbott, a conservative Governor, would travel to Cuba. According to the Austin American-Statesman, Abbott and the Texas delegation will visit numerous sites in Cuba.

The trip by the Texas delegation will be a whirlwind – 51 hours from wheels-down in Havana on Monday to wheels-up Wednesday evening for the return home.

It will include a tour of the Cuba’s state-of-the-art Port of Mariel, and meetings with a variety of Cuban trade and tourism officials. It will culminate with a meeting with José Luis Toledo Santander, president of the Constitutional Commission of the National Assembly of the People’s Power.

Abbott’s trip is freighted with symbolic significance. He is the conservative Republican governor of Texas, the second largest state in the union and the world’s 12th largest economy.

As a politician, Abbott is not one to leave his right flank exposed, and his decision to make a high-profile trip to Cuba his second international trip — the first, in September, was to Mexico — was as sure a sign as any that there is little political risk, outside certain Cuban-American circles, still mostly concentrated in Florida, in the move toward closer economic relations with Cuba, even if it is an opening being championed by Obama.

“This is symbolically important,” said James Williams, president of Engage Cuba, a recently formed nonprofit advocacy group lobbying Congress to end travel and trade restrictions with Cuba. “There’s nothing that says mainstream Republican Party, anti-Obama, anti-everything about his agenda than the governor of Texas. It means something.”

“Opening trade with Cuba could be a watershed moment for Texas’ agricultural interests and its seaports,” Williams said. “According to some estimates, it could generate $57 million in new exports and result in 1,500 new jobs in the state.”

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