WASHINGTON

Sen. Paul backs Cuba ties, breaks with Republicans

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said Thursday the lengthy U.S. economic embargo against Cuba “just hasn’t worked” and voiced support for opening trade with Cuba in the aftermath of the Obama administration’s policy shift regarding the island nation.

Paul became the first potential Republican presidential candidate to offer some support for President Obama’s attempted normalization of relations with Cuba. Several potential GOP candidates criticized Obama’s move, saying it amounted to appeasing the Castro regime.

Paul said in a radio interview in Huntington, West Virginia, that many younger Cuban Americans support open trade with Cuba. And many U.S. farmers, he said, would back Obama’s move because Cuba would offer a new market.

“The 50-year embargo just hasn’t worked,” Paul said. “If the goal is regime change, it sure doesn’t seem to be working, and probably, it punishes the people more than the regime because the regime can blame the embargo for hardship.”

The senator’s approach separates him from Republican presidential hopefuls, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Govs. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. Paul’s more libertarian outlook could help him in agricultural states like Iowa, holder of the nation’s first presidential caucuses.

WASHINGTON

Cuban diplomacy doesn’t alter immigration rules

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says the Obama decision to renew diplomatic ties with Cuba won’t impact immigration rules just yet.

In an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Thursday, Johnson says policy change won’t impact immigration rules for now. He added that Cubans should not to try to come to the U.S. illegally.

Under current law Cubans who make it to U.S. soil are generally allowed to permanently stay in the country. Most other immigrants face deportation if caught sneaking into the U.S.

PARIS

Europeans could lose out to U.S. in selling wheat to Cuba

The European Union stands to lose a $150 million wheat market in Cuba as the United States moves to normalize relations with the island.

Wheat is Cuba’s second-biggest import, behind refined petroleum. The country bought 548,756 metric tons of the grain from the European Union in the year through June, with a value of $149 million.

The U.S.’s share of Cuba’s wheat imports could reach as much as 90 percent from zero if the countries re-establish trade relations, according to U.S. Wheat Associates.

EU shipments “will be entirely conquered by the U.S. because they’re extremely close, extremely competitive,” said Paul Gaffet, a French wheat analyst.

Caracas

Friendly status with Cuba complicates Venezuela’s ties

Latin America is welcoming the renewal of ties between Cuba and the United States, but the rapprochement may complicate matters for Havana’s chief ally, Venezuela, which has been becoming more stridently anti-American.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and leaders across Latin America applauded the deal to normalize diplomatic relations between the two countries Wednesday. But analysts said the news is bound to shift geopolitical relations across the region and leave anti-American countries like Venezuela and Bolivia more isolated.

The deal came just days after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called thousands to protest proposed U.S. sanctions on Venezuelan officials accused of human rights violations. On Thursday, President Obama approved those sanctions.

– From news service reports