WASHINGTON — The U.S. government announced the reopening of the U.S. embassy in Cuba on Wednesday after half a century, taking a major step toward ending a long-standing trade embargo opposed by both Minnesota politicians and businesses.
“You can’t get rid of a trade embargo without first having an embassy,” U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota told the Star Tribune.
Klobuchar, a Democrat, is lead sponsor of a bill to end the embargo and allow U.S. businesses to sell products in Cuba for the first time in half a century.
Klobuchar spent recent weeks trying to add cosponsors to her trade embargo bill in anticipation of an embassy announcement. She now has 17 cosponsors including Minnesota Democratic colleague Al Franken and three Republicans.
The legislation has yet to go through the Senate Banking Committee in the Republican-controlled chamber. Strong opposition exists to ending the embargo among members of the Senate and House with close ties to the Cuban-American constituents. Fidel Castro’s communist revolution from 1953 to 1959 overthrew a U.S.-backed government and eventually drove many Cubans from their homeland.
But Klobuchar said she hopes the embassy reopening and business and tourism interests in Cuba will put public pressure on the Senate to act.
Reopening the embassy in Havana is the latest move by the Obama administration in normalizing relations with Cuba, an initiative the president announced in December.
Minnesotans generally view reopening trade with Cuba as an opportunity to increase exports, Klobuchar said as she traveled the state on Wednesday.
Cargill, one of Minnesota’s biggest corporations, has taken the lead in the state’s business community in calling for an end to the embargo.
Devry Boughner Vorwerk, Cargill’s vice president of for government relations, helped organize the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba — which includes more than two dozen trade associations representing virtually every crop and meat produced in the country.
Vorwerk has called the trade embargo “a failed policy experiment.”
Still, Klobuchar recognizes the political obstacles that still exist for ending the trade embargo.
She predicted that it will become “a major issue in the  presidential campaign.”
But, she added, “I’m convinced it will pass at some point.”