Cuba Politics

Trade With Cuba Steadily Rising

Posted November 05, 2005 by crp236 in Cuba Politics.


“This embargo policy has been in place for more than 40 years and we haven’t really achieved anything with it. What it has created is a great deal of misery, mistrust and ignorance.”

Tony Martinez
Washington lawyer and business consultant

Trade With Cuba Steadily Rising

HAVANA, Cuba, Nov. 4, 2005
(CBS) By CBS News Producer Portia Siegelbaum

“It will be the first time since 1959 that we have Nebraska great northern dry beans in Cuba,” Nebraska Governor David Heineman said speaking in the Cuban capital earlier this week as he witnessed the signing of contracts for nearly $30 million of his state’s agricultural products.

Heineman’s presence boosted the Nebraska presence ó he brought 18 people with him ó at the annual Havana International Trade Fair, where over 300 representatives of dozens of American firms were doing business under an exemption to the U.S. economic and trade embargo against the island. “It’s perfectly legal,” he stressed.

Congress passed the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act in 2000. That opened the door to a limited and highly regulated one-way sale of U.S. food and agricultural products to Cuba. American companies must obtain licenses from the Treasury Department before they can sell to the island. The regulations specify that Cuba must pay in cash for these goods. And, the U.S. companies are not allowed to buy Cuban products for sale in the United States.

But this opening was enough to kick Cuba way up in the rankings. According to U.S. Government figures, in 2000, Cuba was at the bottom of the pile of some 200 countries in terms of agricultural purchases from the United States. By 2004, Cuba ranked 25th, having bought nearly $400 million dollars worth of goods ranging from Louisiana and Texas rice to Washington apples, to cattle from Vermont and Maine.

The economic and trade embargo on Cuba was imposed by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 as a way to undermine Fidel Castro’s fledgling revolution. More than four decades later, the Bush Administration tightened the regulations further in an effort to topple the socialist regime still headed by Castro, now 79.

Despite the new more complicated payment rules established earlier this year, which make it harder to do business, Cuba is still buying U.S. products. The total value of the deals reached during the fair has not yet been made public.

However, Florida rancher, John Parke Wright was told by a top Cuban trade official that by noon Thursday, $190 million in contracts had been signed with American producers and suppliers. With two days of the fair still to go, he said, Alimport, the Cuban food importing firm expected the total amount to top the $200 million figure.

Gov. Heineman who promises “to do all I can for my farmers and ranchers” by pursuing the Cuban market, sidesteps questions such as whether Nebraska wouldn’t benefit from a total lifting of the trade restrictions. “I don’t take sides or get involved in international politics because those decisions are made by the United States President, the United States Congress and the United States State Department.”

The Republican governor similarly refused to provide any details on his hour-long meeting with President Castro Tuesday evening.

Other fair participants were more outspoken on the issue. Washington lawyer and business consultant Tony Martinez decried embargo policy for working “against our own interests.”

Martinez has helped companies selling animal feed, peanuts and fresh produce get licenses and negotiate deals in Cuba. He feels very strongly that it’s time for change. “This embargo policy has been in place for more than 40 years and we haven’t really achieved anything with it. What it has created is a great deal of misery, mistrust and ignorance.”

Furthermore, Martinez pointed out it makes sense for American businessmen to get a foot in the door. “The people who are selling food now know that this is an island with 11 million people besides Fidel Castro and when Fidel Castro is no longer in power those 11 million people are still going to be here.”

Tim Lynch, who holds a doctorate in economics and is director of the Center for Economic Forecasting and Analysis at Florida State University, has predicted that free trade with Cuba could generate $50 billion and 900,000 jobs for the United States over a 20-year period.

Those are the kinds of figures that that anti-embargo activists cite when advocating a change in policy.

The A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition falls in that category. It’s currently using its Web site to mobilize embargo opponents prior to November 8, when the United Nations General Assembly will be voting for the 14th consecutive year on a Cuban sponsored resolution calling for the lifting of the U.S. blockade, Havana’s term for the embargo. The resolution has passed overwhelmingly every year since first presented.

The message on their Web site urges people “to send a message of opposition to the U.S. blockade of Cuba to the Congressional Representative in your District, Senators in your state, President George W. Bush, Secretary of the Department of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez and Secretary of the Treasury John William Snow.”

Washington is unlikely to listen. The Bush Administration has been pursuing a policy intended to speed up the downfall of the Castro regime. A coordinator for a post-Castro Cuba transition was recently appointed. His job has been described as two-fold: to hasten the transition and then to help establish a democratic government and market economy. The strategy, as outlined in a report by the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, doesn’t include easing trade restrictions until after the transition is solidified.

Member Comments

On November 06, 2005, bernie wrote:

Gov. Dave Heineman brought 18 people with him.
WOW: it takes 18 people to sign a bean contract?
    I thought the internet would be able to take care
    of transactions of this nature.
How come 1 person (me) cannot get a permit to visit
Cuba?  I sure would like to know how to get a permit.

On November 07, 2005, crp236 wrote:

It has been widely reported in the Internet that many Americans travel to Cuba by going through a third country (Mexico, Bahamas, Jamaica, Canada, etc.)

The reason for the travel ban is tha many American politicians receive “campaign contributions” from the Cuban-American extremists headquarted in Miami, who have a deep hatred of Cuba. They and their Mafia friends were booted out of the country in 1959.