Our Man in Cuba: Butch Otter

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Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter should be more than a little interested in Wednesday's big news that the United States and Cuba have begun thawing their Cold War-era relationship—swinging the doors open to more travel, easier financial transactions and creations of embassies in each other's nations.

Otter has traveled to Cuba on numerous occasions, three while a U.S. congressman and another as governor in 2007.

"I have high hopes that the work we've done will result in a fruitful harvest for Idaho producers and businesses," Otter boasted in 2007.

When Otter and his delegation, which included dozens of businessmen and government officials, returned to Idaho, there was plenty of back-slapping. An official release from the Governor's Office touted deals to sell biotechnology, seed potatoes and plenty of meat. Falls Brand Independent Meats of Twin Falls announced a plan to ship more than 50 tons of boneless pork, valued at more than $100,000, in a matter of months. But none of it happened.

Nathaniel Hoffman, former BW news editor and current editor of Boise State's Blue Review, attempted to follow the Idaho delegation but he remembered that they had given him the slip, giving Hoffman false information about when and where they were traveling.

"They hid from me for days," recalled Hoffman.

More importantly, Hoffman remembered Cuba's desperate need for Idaho's meat, potatoes, wheat and more.

"They desperately need food," he said. "A lot of restaurants just aren't any good. In fact, if you're looking for anything decent to eat, you're told to look for a line coming out of an alley. If you follow the line, it usually leads to someone's house where they're selling their personal food. There's a huge underground economy."

But it appears that all of that may change following a year of back-channel talks, including involvement from the Vatican, which culminated in this week's historic news.