TOPEKA – (October 5, 2016) – Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt last week joined the first delegation of state attorneys general to visit Cuba since the United States reestablished diplomatic relations with that island nation last year.
During three days in Havana, the attorneys general met with representatives of the Cuban attorney general’s office, the ministry of Justice, the Supreme Court and legal organizations. They also visited the campus of Havana University Law School and held discussions with the dean, faculty members and a student representative.
“Over time, the reopening of Cuba holds great potential for Kansas,” Schmidt said. “After more than half a century of economic isolation, the needs of the country’s 11 million people are tremendous. But the political and social isolation over that same time have taken a heavy toll, and it will be critical to build the broad base of professional relationships that can support the reopening. Legal ties are an important part of that.”
For example, Schmidt said, merely lifting the U.S. embargo at some point in the future will not by itself enable the sort of broad-based trade with Cuba that Kansas exporters desire. It also will be necessary to develop legal interactions that can enforce contracts, satisfy government regulatory requirements, comply with labor rules and resolve disputes in a predictable manner consistent with the rule of law.
“There is a long way to go before U.S. interaction with Cuba resembles what in the 21st century is considered a normal bilateral relationship,” Schmidt said. “The reopening will take many years. But it is starting, and we want to make sure Kansas is engaged in that process from its early days.”
Schmidt’s visit to Cuba was sponsored and paid for by the Conference of Western Attorneys General and not by Kansas tax dollars. Over the past decade, the western attorneys general have established ongoing exchanges with Mexican legal authorities that serve as a forum for discussing trans-border issues of mutual concern such as drug trafficking, human trafficking and other law enforcement matters. Schmidt said he is optimistic similar ties can be established with Cuba.