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Dubie Talks Baseball, Bovines with Cuban Diplomat

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Published June 4, 2008 at 11:16 a.m.

Holsteins and home-run hitters may soon be headed to Cuba from Vermont, the latter possibly as early as August.

Lt. Governor Brian Dubie met in Washington, D.C., last week with Jorge Alberto Bolanos Suarez, head of the Cuban Interest Section, the country's equivalent of an embassy, to discuss, among other things, a Little League sports mission between the two countries.

This week, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that members of the Connecticut Valley South Little League All-Star team hope to play at least one game per day in the Havana area during a 10-day trip scheduled for August.

However, Dubie told Seven Days, the news report was "a bit premature." Although the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control has granted the American team a license to visit Cuba, the Cuban government has yet to do so.

"At every level of their government they say, 'We want more trade, more travel, more people-to-people,''' Dubie said. "Now, the ball is in their court and, hopefully, they'll approve it."

In a three-hour meeting with Bolanos at the diplomat's private residence in Washington, D.C., Dubie also discussed a possible follow-up to his 2005 trade mission, during which Vermont sold Cuba 74 dairy cows and 4000 metric tons of dry milk. The lieutenant governor said the farmers who sold cows to Cuba often ask about their status.

"These farmers sold their cows because they wanted to get paid, of course, but a lot of them sold their cows because they wanted to be part of something bigger than themselves," he said.

Dubie said he and Bolanos also talked about the lawsuit brought by four Vermonters who are suing the U.S. government for permission to visit family members in Cuba. One of the plaintiffs, Armando Vilaseca, served as Dubie's interpreter during his 2005 trip. Among other things, the 51-year-old Cuban-American helped convince Cuban officials to let Dubie visit with Vladimiro Roca, a prominent Cuban dissident.

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