Alabama Congress votes for end to blockade
Campaign News | Friday, 28 April 2006
The two houses of the state legislature approved a resolution urging Washington to end the 45-year-old restrictions, after $20 million in sales was negotiated
Havana 28 April: THE Alabama state congress has approved a resolution urging the US Congress to annul all trade, financial and travel restrictions related to Cuba.
The AP and AFP news agencies reported that trade agreements signed on April 26 by Cuba’s food import firm Alimport and Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks provide for $20 million worth of sales in agricultural goods to Cuba, and $7 million of that was concretized during a trade delegation’s visit to the island.
During the previous week, Alimport president Pedro Álvarez informed that U.S. food sales to Cuba now total more than $1.69 billion since 2001, when the U.S. Congress approved an amendment authorizing those transactions, which must be in cash, upfront without possibility of credit.
"All of those regulations create insecurity...and are detrimental to businessmen," Álvarez commented at the time.
The Alimport president most recently spoke during the signing of an agreement for $30 million in food imports from the state of Nebraska, with a delegation led by that state’s Lieutenant Governor Rick Sheehy and Agriculture Director Greg Ibach.
This year, Cuba has imported from the United States more than $151 million in products such as soy, chicken, rice, fruit, flour, wheat, corn, oil, grains, butter, powdered milk, eggs, cattle and supermarket products.
The George W. Bush administration has tried to block the implementation of these trade measures and the expansion of others, accepting the demands by Cuban-born Congressional members and other elements who control the politics and economy of the state of Florida. These sectors were attributed decisive importance to Bush’s two electoral victories. It was in this context that the Alabama state officials and legislators announced to the media the resolution passed by the state congress urging U.S. lawmakers in Washington to end the restrictions and freely allow those ties.
TRADE EXTREMELY IMPORTANT TO US FARMERS
Senators and US representatives hope that the resolutions serve as an example for other states.
When asked if he expected other states to follow suit, Sparks said Alabama was sending a message, the AP reported. The Alabama commissioner added that the southern state’s trade relations with Cuba have been "extremely important to the farmers of Alabama," who have sold $150 million worth of goods.
Sparks also said that the trade has been an important boost for port activities, and that it "ensures" the maintenance of 467,000 jobs in the agricultural sector, according to the AFP.
Alabama state Senator Hank Sanders said that the fact that his state legislature is conservative makes it feasible for similar resolutions to be approved other states and by Washington.
A second resolution passed by Alabama’s congress expressed thanks to Alimport’s Álvarez for his efforts toward normalizing bilateral relations.
The resolutions read out by Sparks were presented by nine legislators who traveled to Cuba together with the agriculture commissioner.