Friday, December 09, 2005

Cuba….Embargo or Not?

From Guest Blogger Rob Robinson:

Are Kudos in order for Governor Dave Heineman? The Nebraska Governor recently traveled to Cuba and secured an agricultural trade agreement valued at over $30 million dollars. The agreement indicates that Cuba will buy $30 million dollars in Great Northern beans from Nebraska farmers on a cash only basis. Yes, you heard me, a cash only basis.

Try to imagine a Nebraska State employee meeting a shadowy figure in the middle of the night to exchange Great Northern Beans for a cashier’s check or a brief case brimming over with $30 million in cash. Okay, I am kidding…I am sure with today’s e-commerce that they will do some type of wire transfer. But the question is whether the cash will come directly to a Nebraska bank or will it spend a few days in a Cayman Islands or Swiss Bank account first?

Why cash? According to a November 11, 2005, article published by the Associated Press, Cuba has been under an American trade embargo for more than four decades. However a law passed by Congress in 2000, allows American food to be sold directly to the Cuba on a cash basis. Recent restrictions require Cuba to pay for the goods in full before they leave American ports.

Alimport, a Cuban based food import company, reported that American companies sold $259 million of food and agricultural products to Cuba at a trade fair during the month of November, 2005. It is expected that Cuba will sign over $40 million dollars in contracts with the United States by the years end and even exceed the $474 million it paid last year to buy American farm goods. This will include shipping and hefty bank fees to send payments through third nations, the report further stated.

In addition, according to the November AP report, Alimport also signed contracts with companies from other countries, agreeing to buy $67 million of rice from Vietnam, $35 million of powdered milk from New Zealand, $33 million of meat and beans from China, and $25 million of chicken from Brazil, among others.

Those who have championed economic relief to economically distraught Cuba for many years welcome this information. But wouldn’t it be easier to simply lift the embargo? Otherwise, one may suspect that the present plan will offer financial loopholes to those internally (lawmakers and lobbyist) aware of the complicated process of exchanging goods with Cuba without officially lifting the embargo and informing American business owners of the opportunity.

Many argue that having the present agreement prevents Cuban President, Fidel Castro from having extended credit with the U.S. and other countries while also being ineligible for any future debt relief for this communist run country. Nonetheless, wouldn’t it be great and smart to know that there is an in depth plans in place for Cuba other than simply waiting for Castro to die? In August 2005, during a ceremony with Castro of which Nebraska Governor Heinemann attended, the Governor stated that he spent more than 4 hours standing and chatting with the 80 year old President, and while tired no one was about to sit down before he did. It appears apparent that Castro is steadfast to stay around as long as possible. With recent trades with Cuba, arguably now is a great time to exchange ideas and plans with an ailing, but stubborn leader who knows the details of his country.

Recently more than 40 US lawmakers signed an agreement urging normalized trade agreements with Cuba. I agree that it is time. It is the best thing to do while bringing all arrangements for the exchange of cash for food to light in a manner that eliminates any ideas of suspicions and conspiracy theories on this long overdue historic exchange.

1 comment:

El Guapo said...

Castro is to the U.S. a lot like Arafat was to Israel for so long: All he has to do is say the word and make a couple compromises, and I think we'd be happy to open the flood gates.

But, just like Arafat, he needs the 800-lb gorilla next door to blame for everything that's wrong--and to maintain his absolute control.

It just seems doubtful that anyone's going to budge before "the Horse" buys the farm (or becomes a part of a cooperative, in his case).

Also, just FYI, a lot of medical products are eligible for export as well (the idea is that it will help the Cuban people).

Another thing about this: note that the governor's visit equated to the purchase of goods. I was at that event, and an Illinois company was told the Alimport people needed to look into the state's voting records.

Just thought I'd throw some random tidbits in there. Good article!