New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is heading to Havana, the first American governor to visit Cuba since the recent thaw in relations with the communist nation.
The formal state visit on Monday and Tuesday is meant to foster greater ties between New York and Cuba. Cuomo will be joined by lawmakers and a group of business leaders for what he has called ``a tremendous stepping stone'' that will ``help open the door to a new market for New York businesses.''
Trade experts say New York could profit from improved relations with the Caribbean nation. New York farmers could export apples, powdered milk and other dairy products. Businesses could invest in Cuba's developing information technology infrastructure. Hoteliers could build resorts to prepare for the increase in American tourists.
Critics say Cuomo's visit legitimizes a dictatorship and is more about politics than exports. Republican Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, whose mother is a Cuban emigre, said any efforts to normalize relations must be accompanied by significant concessions from the Castro regime.
Cuomo spokeswoman Melissa DeRosa said that greater engagement with Cuba will ``do more to support the Cuban people and promote our values'' than "continuing a policy of isolation which has failed for the last 50 years.''
The U.S. has been exporting limited amounts of food to Cuba for years. New York is one of the top producers in the U.S. of dairy products and apples.