Skip to comments.US Food Cos. Hope for Sales to Cuba - Bush adm. denies visas
Posted on 04/04/2002 7:29:12 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
HAVANA - After contracting to sell more than $73 million worth of American food to Cuba, U.S. agricultural firms are hopeful they can increase their sales there despite last week's rejection of U.S. visas for Cuban officials interested in negotiating new deals.
The United States last week rejected visas for at least three officials representing Cuba's food import agency. It said the Bush administration didn't see any reason for them to visit.
Otto Reich, the Cuban-born assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, promised in mid-March that the Bush administration would resist congressional pressure for closer ties with the island.
"We are not going to help Fidel Castro stay in power by opening up our markets to Cuba," Reich said at the time.
American farm groups said the officials included technicians who wanted to inspect U.S. poultry plants and discuss sanitary issues.
A new round of sales, for an additional $25 million, could be postponed and some deals could be canceled because of the refusal, said John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council.
"Any time there is a disruption that isn't planned, it's harmful. The question now is: how harmful?" he said.
Still, American companies are moving discreetly to resolve the problem with the U.S. government, Kavulich said.
"The idea is to solve the problem and not create an issue," he said.
The new round of sales - if successfully negotiated - is expected to include turkey and pork products and a variety of grains.
Already, the $73 million in food that American firms have contracted to sell Fidel Castro's government is double what was anticipated.
Nearly six months since Hurricane Michelle howled across the island, ripping apart chicken farms, shaking fruit off citrus trees and yanking up root vegetables, Cuba has purchased, contracted or confirmed its intention to buy about 450,000 metric tons of U.S. agricultural products, the New York-based council said in its regular newsletter this week.
The food, coming from 25 states, includes corn, rice, wheat, soy, poultry, vegetable oil, apples, peas, eggs and pork lard. Deliveries are scheduled through the end of June.
The council's latest estimate of $73 million for total American food sales to Cuba after the hurricane is up by $5 million from earlier estimates.
"The latest estimate reflects changes either in existing contracts or final confirmations of earlier sales," said Kavulich.
The most recent contract to sell food to Cuba is Radlo Foods of Watertown, Mass., for 10 million eggs worth about $500,000.
Cuba traditionally has produced most of its own eggs - about 1.5 billion annually - but production fell by 12 percent last year, reportedly because chicken feed was scarce.
A U.S. law that went into effect in 2000 made it possible for American producers to sell food directly to the island, but banned U.S. public or private financing for the sales. Cuba resents the financing restrictions and refused for nearly a year to buy American food - until the hurricane struck.
Shortly after Michelle hit in early November, Cuba said it would buy American food just once to replenish its reserves. About $40 million in sales were originally envisioned under a one-time round of contracts.
But American food companies have kept pushing to sell, and members of Congress have kept pushing - so far unsuccessfully - for legislation to allow U.S. financing for those sales. Currently, American food sales to Cuba must be conducted on a cash basis.
Globaphobic Vote in Brazil could alter political map of region****For starters, a Brazilian move to the left could pave the way for a South American nationalist-populist bloc -- that could also include Venezuela and Argentina -- that would strongly oppose the U.S.-backed plan to create a Free Trade Area of the Americas by 2005. Conceivably, the new ''globaphobic'' bloc could strengthen ties with Cuba, and with Colombia's Marxist guerrillas.****
I believe that just last week a professional hater on FR posted that as usual, GW was selling us out on this issue!
The Stealth President strikes again!
Jay Nordlinger: ImpromptusRegular readers know of my admiration for Otto Reich, the new assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere. He was the target of a classic smear campaign by the hard Left, which influenced many on the softer Left. Christopher Dodd, on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, refused to give him a hearing. President Bush, showing cojones, gave him a recess appointment.
In a way, the 20th century that terrible century is summed up in the name of this man: Otto Juan Reich. What a weird name! Ottos father, Walter, was an Austrian Jew who walked over the Alps and finally, after a circuitous and harrowing journey, made his way to Cuba: literally to a haven, Havana. Walter Reichs parents were not so lucky: They were, of course, murdered by the Blacks.
When Walter got to Havana, he took lodging with a local family. Not long after, he married a daughter in that family. The years passed, and Walter Reich and his wife and children cheered the downfall of the dictator Batista. They turned out at the National Hotel to welcome the liberators.
But then the totalitarian nature of the liberators became clear, and Walter Reich knew that he had seen it all before: He would run, with his family, before it was too late. So they did, to Florida. First, it had been the Blacks, and now it was the Reds same difference, really.
Theres a lot in that name: Otto Juan Reich. It almost encapsulates the effort to get free.
Reich was sworn in as assistant secretary on March 11, and the speech he gave is, honestly, one of the most beautiful I have ever read. It can be found here, but even so Id like to quote from it a little. It is wise, smart, funny, learned, eloquent, graceful, and surprising. He says,
"As much as I appreciate your presence, my first words of gratitude, on behalf of myself and my brother, my family and my fellow Cuban-Americans, must go to this most generous of countries, the United States of America.
As most of you know, my country of birth, Cuba, lost its liberty to a totalitarian dictatorship 43 years ago. My family, like so many other non-political families, was in danger simply because of our love of liberty, which ran counter to the Communist ideology being imposed by force on that island.
The United States of America opened its doors to us, as it has done for millions yearning to breathe free. It did not ask for anything in return, except allegiance and respect for the laws. It protected our lives, gave us liberty, and the opportunity to pursue our happiness.
"I want you to reflect for a minute on what you have just witnessed: Where else but in the United States of America could the son of Jamaican immigrants rise to be the national security adviser to the president, then become the highest-ranking officer in the most powerful armed forces in the world, and then secretary of state?
Where else could he administer the oath of office to another son of the Caribbean half Cuban, half Austrian, half Catholic, half Jewish and charge him with directing our countrys relations with the 34 nations of our home hemisphere?
But I dont want you white Anglo-Saxon Protestants out there to despair: There is room in our society for you, too.
" Much has been made of my Cuban-American heritage. One group said that I couldnt possibly handle our relations with this hemisphere because I dont have the right temperament, by virtue of my ethnic background. They actually put that in writing! They said that I cant make rational decisions because of my ideology. Well, theyre not saying that anymore, because I had them all arrested this morning!
Seriously, I think it is time that Cuban-Americans cease to be the one ethnic group that the media still find acceptable to denigrate.
A little policy:
" We must battle a number of threats all at once: terrorism, drug trafficking, common crime, disease, ignorance, illiteracy, poverty, apathy, racism, despotism, selfishness. And as Secretary Powell mentioned, corruption. Corruption is the single largest obstacle to development in the developing world. Those who steal from the public purse are doing as much harm to their country as a foreign invader would. Whether it is the policeman who takes a $2 bribe to tear up a traffic ticket or a cabinet official who takes $2 million to rig a government contract, they are doing untold damage to their countries.
" As I said earlier, questions were raised about my ideology. If you want to know what my ideology is, you need not go far. Just drive a few blocks from here to the Jefferson Memorial.
Inscribed in the largest letters at the highest point inside the monument is a quotation from that great Virginian and first secretary of state: I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. That is where my American ideology is founded."
Well, that was more than a little quoting, I acknowledge. But this is a great speech. It is the sort of thing, surely, Reich would have said at his confirmation hearing, if he had had one. Im glad I heard it anyway. [End Excerpt]
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