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Posted March 10, 2004 by publisher in US Tourism to Cuba

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ANDREA RODRIGUEZ | Associated Press

HAVANA - The No. 1 departure point for American ocean travel to Cuba could be Texas when U.S. travel restrictions against the communist island end, the port authority’s chairman said Wednesday.

“I suspect that when everything opens up, a lot of cruise lines will want to come here,” said James Edmonds, chairman of the Houston port commission. “It will be a great race.”

“We see that in this part of the world - Mexico, Central America - Cuba is our future,” Edmonds told a news conference.

“We see that in this part of the world - Mexico, Central America - Cuba is our future,” Edmonds told a news conference.

Edmonds spoke after he and Cuban officials signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at increasing use of the Houston port to ship American farm goods being sold to the Caribbean nation under an exception to the 4-decade-old trade embargo.

Most American trade and travel with Cuba is prohibited under U.S. laws and regulations aimed at forcing a change in Fidel Castro’s government.

Members of U.S. Congress have made repeated, but unsuccessful, attempts to ease or lift the restrictions in recent years. The Bush administration has tightened restrictions.

Before the 1959 revolution that brought Castro to power, there was regular passenger and car ferry service between Havana and Key West, Fla., as well as busy shipping traffic between the countries.

Cruise ships do visit Cuba now, but none are U.S.-based or operated by American firms.

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