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ISSUE 116 VOL 4 PUBLISHED 10/4/2002

Ventura strengthens ties with Cuba

By Anonymous
Contributing Writer

Friday, October 4, 2002

Gov. Jesse Ventura brought greetings from Minnesota to Cubas leader Fidel Castro in the form of the Minnesota state bird. Ventura gave Castro a carved, hand-painted loon with the words "Best Wishes" written on it in Spanish. Ventura returned from a four-day trip to Havana, Cuba on Sept. 29. Amidst opposition from Floridas Gov. Jeb Bush who hoped Ventura would cancel the trip, Ventura said, "He can govern Florida and Ill govern Minnesota." While in Havana, Ventura strengthened the ties between Castros communist society and Minnesota. His time in Cuba was only the beginning of what could be a long-term relationship with the Cubans. This first step came after several reports of Minnesota food sales to Cubans at the U.S. Food and Agribusiness Exposition. Food sales to Cuba, according to Cargill of Minnetonka, Minn., report between four million and five million dollars. Ventura made an effort to help the Cubans buy food without political intervention. Minnesota's delegation seeks to lessen the four decades of trade restrictions that still ban all but the cash-only sale of food and medicine to Cuba. Their first step was a trade show. Castro and Ventura shared the stage at the opening of the agricultural products show on Sept. 26. Both parties expressed their delight in the event, as it served as a breakthrough for neighboring nations that have quarreled for decades. Two young Minnesotans helped Ventura out with the trade show by bringing their cattle to sell in Cuba. Cliff and Seth Kaehler from St. Charles, Minn. had the chance to meet Castro. After the opening ceremonies for the trade show, Castro spent some time with the Kaehler family. Castro was impressed with the young boys and their father Ralph Kaehler, who is now negotiating the import of two additional planeloads of farm animals worth nearly $250,000. The family also made headlines in Granma, Cubas Communist Party newspaper. Competition at the trade show was high, as there were 300 companies and 24 states present. Cargill and Hormel were two of the companies from Minnesota. Several of these companies yearned for the opportunity to gain attention from Castro and his buyers, yet Minnesota had an edge over the other states with the presence of the bold Ventura. While the governor made a strong impact on Castro, the two talked little about politics. Ventura asked Castro if Cuba played a role in the JFK assassination, of which Castro said he knew nothing. Instead, Castro was interested in learning more about Venturas wrestling career. "He wanted to know how we can be body-slammed and fall the way we do, and still get up," said Ventura. Stepping aside from his business in Cuba, Ventura took care of business back home by tending to his weekly radio show on WCCO. He cut short his private audience with Castro on Friday to broadcast "Live from Havana." He also appeared on CNN with Wolf Blitzer, MSNBC with Ashleigh Banfield and CBS's "Early Show" with former Miss America Gretchen Carlson, a Minnesota native. Typical of his outlandish character, Ventura participated in a Latin dance contest at Club Habana. Ventura won the contest and stated that he would be back next year to "defend his title." A St. Olaf student was able to get in on the action at the University of Havana where he spoke. As a Minnesotan student, Helena Rortveldt 04 was invited to attend the press conference, where she stood just 15 feet from Ventura. Rortveldt, along with three other students got to stand up to acknowledge themselves as Minnesotans. "He said some interesting things and some silly things. He says not to worry, even though he wont be seeking reelection as Govoner of Minnesota, he wont go away. He says that his next job looks to be something more national," said Rortveldt. Ventura expressed interest in becoming an ambassador to Cuba in the future. He believes that his actions thus far in smoothing over quarrels with the United States, make him the perfect candidate for the position.

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