- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 24, 2015

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday that he will travel to Cuba after the Thanksgiving holiday, becoming the latest U.S. governor to pursue economic development possibilities with the island nation amid easing trade restrictions.

President Barack Obama has worked to normalize relations with Cuba after a half-century of hostility between the Cold War foes. The White House removed Cuba from a U.S. terrorism blacklist and this year, and the flags of both nations now fly in Washington and Havana.

Republican presidential candidates, however, have maintained a hardline view on Cuba. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, whose father was born in Cuba, said the Obama administration has given Cuban President Raul Castro legitimacy, and Marco Rubio has called for restoring old measures.

Making no mention of the politics, Abbott said Texas had a chance to “capitalize” on an economic opportunity.

“Opening the door to business with Texas will expand free enterprise and the freedom that flows from it. I look forward to expanding business opportunities for both Texas and Cuba,” Abbott said in a statement.

Abbott will arrive in Havana on Monday and stay for three days.

In September, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson became the first governor to visit Cuba since the U.S. reopened an embassy there in July. Hutchinson had supported the embargo with Cuba when he was a member of Congress, but he now says he supports gradually reducing the restrictions over time.

Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo also visited Cuba earlier this year.

Hutchinson was joined by officials from Tyson Foods and other private companies on his trip. Abbott, too, will be joined by Texas business and economic leaders. The trop will be paid for by TexasOne, a quasi-governmental economic development agency.

The visit will be the second international trip for Abbott since taking office. He went to Mexico in September.

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Follow Paul J. Weber on Twitter: www.twitter.com/pauljweber

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