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US won't ease embargo.

US Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, has ruled out easing of the trade and travel embargo on Cuba until after all remnants of the Fidel Castro regime are removed from power, reports Bloomberg News (Jan. 25, 2007):

Gutierrez, who came to the US in 1960 as his family fled Cuba, said Castro's frail health and the prospect for political change make this the wrong time to adjust restrictions on trade, investment or travel. At stake is a potential US$1 billion-a-year export market for US farm and other goods, the rebirth of a tourist haven for Americans and the end of almost five-decades of diplomatic isolation between countries separated by a 112-mile waterway. President George W. Bush will resist efforts by lawmakers to allow more visits or commerce with Cuba, he said;

Castro, 80, ceded power to his brother Raul on July 31, 2006 as he underwent surgery. Gutierrez, 53, called Raul Castro Fidel's "most loyal disciple," and said he won't change the socialist economy or political system in Cuba. Gutierrez has stumped for opening markets with socialist countries such as China, arguing that commercial ties have led to economic development, adult literacy and reduced poverty. Cuba is a different case, he said;

The embargo means companies such as Irving, Texas-based Exxon Mobil Corp. can't bid on Cuban offshore oil tracts, agribusiness giants such as Decatur, Illinois-based Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. face restrictions on wheat sales, and Miami-based Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd can't send their cruise ships to Havana;

Analysts predict that the demise of Fidel Castro could lead to a move in Congress to weaken the embargo. "I don't expect the end of the embargo for some time, but there could be easing in some areas," said Wayne Smith, director for the Cuba program at the Center for International Policy and the former chief of mission at the US Interests Section in Havana. So far, the Bush administration has moved in the opposite direction, tightening a 2000 law that allowed agricultural sales, making it tougher to send money to family members in Cuba and clamping down on travel visas.
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Publication:Caribbean Update
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2007
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