U.S. grain arrives in Cuba

Two ships, one loaded with frozen chicken parts worth $300,000 and the other with 26,400 tons of corn, arrived in Havana, Cuba Dec. 16, marking the first direct sales of U.S. products to Cuba in since 1963.

The shipment was arranged by agri-giant Archer Daniel Midland (ADM), who will send seven more shipments of grain to Cuba by the end of February at a cost of $14 million to the Cuban government.

Illinois Gov. George Ryan joined ADM officials and leaders of the Illinois agricultural industry in bidding the Mexican-owned ship bon voyage when it departed New Orleans Dec. 14. Ryan said the shipment of corn, which came from nine Midwest states, was “historic in more ways than one. This shipment of corn is another part of the bridge we are building in our relationship with the people of Cuba.”

Ryan, who led a 40-member delegation to Cuba in 1999, said the purpose of that mission was to build abridge of friendship between the people of Cuba and Illinois. “With this shipment, I think we are doing that,” he said.

Christopher Noun, a spokesman for the American Farm Bureau, said that organization, which represents 5.1 million family members, was in “full support” of lifting U.S. restrictions on food and grain.

“We do not believe sanctions are effective,” he said.

The U.S. blockade of Cuba was imposed by the Kennedy administration in 1963, soon after Cuba nationalized U.S.-owned oil refineries that had refused to refine oil produced in the Soviet Union.

The United Nations General Assembly has voted on a resolution calling upon the U.S. government to end its illegal blockade every year since 1991. The vote in 2001 saw 167 countries voting to end the blockade while only Israel and Mauritania supported the United States.