Cuba receives first US shipment in 50 years

Fifty-year US trade embargo on Caribbean island over ideological differences ends with delivery of humanitarian aid.

    Cuba receives first US shipment in 50 years
    Ana Cecilia's delivery marks first from US to Havana Bay after US-imposed trade embargo since 1962 [AFP]

    For the first time in 50 years, Havana Bay has received a shipment of humanitarian aid from Miami in the United States.

    The Ana Cecilia sailed into the Cuban harbour shortly after 11:00 GMT or 7am local time on Friday, carrying family goods, food, medicine and clothing, as well as medical equipment such as orthopedic mattresses and electric wheelchairs.

    Shipper International Port Corp. hopes to make this a weekly service between the US and Cuba, who have been at ideological odds for years, with a ship leaving Miami every Wednesday for the 16-hour trip to Havana.

    The US had imposed a trade embargo on the Communist-run island since 1962, but International Port Corp. says it has been granted a special permit from the US to begin trading.

    "This is so wonderful," said company spokesman Leonardo Sanchez-Adega, after the ship finally docked following a delay of several hours due to an error in customs paperwork submitted to the Cuban authorities.

    There has been no official response from Cuba, however, the Cuban community in Florida, were "positive" about the shipments, according to International Port Corp.

    Initiative welcomed

    Oscar Espinosa Chepe, an opposition economist told AFP news agency that he welcomed the initiative. 

    "I welcome this initiative and hope we will continue on a path to normalise ties between Cuba and the United States."

    The company's clients include charitable, religious and humanitarian groups, as well as relatives of people living in Cuba, which the US considers humanitarian aid from family members and sanctioned groups.

    The Ana Cecilia, a small cargo ship, can hold 16 containers of supplies.

    US President Barack Obama has somewhat eased the embargo, lifting some travel restrictions and allowing Cuban Americans to send unlimited remittances back home, a significant move as 80 per cent of the estimated 1.5 million members of the Cuban diaspora live in the US.

    But the increased flexibility has its limits.

    In December 2009 US contractor Alan Gross was arrested for distributing laptops and communications equipment to members of Cuba's small Jewish community under a US State Department contract.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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