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Posted April 08, 2005 by publisher in Cuba-US Trade

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The Reverend Jesse Jackson plans to travel to Cuba to promote U.S. trade with the Communist-run island, a friend said on Thursday.

Jackson visited Cuba in 1984 when he secured the release from jail of 22 Americans and 26 Cuban political prisoners, and again in 1991. This time he will be going to endorse free trade with Havana.

“He thinks we should bring the walls down and do business with Cuba,” said Alabama businessman Gregory Calhoun, owner of the distribution company Calhoun Foods, who spoke to Jackson from Havana on Wednesday.

“He said he would come to Cuba and told me to work on the dates for him,” Calhoun said before signing food sales worth $14.3 million.

James Gomez, director of international affairs for Jackson’s organization, Rainbow/PUSH, said of the proposed Cuba trip: “We haven’t finalized the details yet.”

The contracts for 4,500 tonnes (tons) of pork hams and 1,400 tonnes of chicken quarters are allowed under a four-year-old exception to the trade embargo enforced by Washington after President Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution.

Calhoun led representatives of 30 U.S. companies to exhibit their goods in Havana, from cheeses and turkey breakfast sausage, to canned fruit, juices, seasonings and “bake and serve” frozen hors d’oeuvres. Many of the products are aimed at hotels at Cuba’s beach resorts.

Pedro Alvarez, head of Cuba’s food import agency Alimport, expected to sign contracts totaling $20 million with the group, which included African-American businessmen.

Since 2001, Cuba has bought over $800 million in food and other agricultural goods from the United States, mainly bulk purchases of corn, wheat, rice and soy products to feed its population.

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