First Ship From Miami for 50 Years Lands in Havana Cuba

On July 12, 2012 by Jonathan Bright

Havana Cuba

As I write this, a cargo ship headed directly from Miami will have docked in Havana Cuba for the first time in half a century. With it, a flicker appears at the end of the long tunnel that is the US/Cuban trade embargo.

The ship – the Ana Cecilia – is laden with humanitarian supplies, and marks the commencement of similar weekly voyages to the Cuban capital by International Port Corp, the ship’s parent. The firm has obtained a permit from the US Government as its cargo is not commercial, its clients are generally of the religious or charitable non-governmental organisation ilk, and its 10-strong crew will not set foot on Cuban soil. The largest items of its cargo are reportedly mattresses.

Company spokesman Leonardo Sanchez-Adega told AFP today: “We are assured that there was nothing to be sold in Cuba.”

Whilst this latest move demonstrates no mitigation of the embargo per se, it is nevertheless the first time since its 1962 imposition that a commercial ship has travelled directly to Havana from Florida.

As the Cold War peaked with the Cuban Missile Crisis occurring mere months prior, US President John F Kennedy sought to depose Cuba’s one-party Communist regime by setting in place one of the longest running trade embargoes in history – the Cuban Assets Control Regulations.

The US also has in place a travel embargo on its citizens to Cuba. US President Barack Obama eased its constraints back in 2009, allowing religious and cultural travel to the island. It is generally perceived that allowing such travel, and providing humanitarian support for non-governmental groups in Cuba, is there merely to foster dissent against President Raul Castro’s Communist Party rule.

Interestingly, the results of a survey released in February this year by public affairs consultancy Angus Reid Public Opinion suggest only a third of Americans abide by this tactic.

That same survey, conducted amongst a pool of 1,008 American adults, revealed nearly two-thirds of Americans are keen to re-establish diplomatic relations between the countries, while a quarter remain opposed. Meanwhile just over half of those surveyed would lift the trade sanctions, and 57 per cent in favour of lifting the travel ban.

The arguments on both sides remain heated, and many that condemn the embargo outright are criticised for not decrying the Castro administration with similar vigour. Lifting any type of embargo ultimately will benefit the ruling Communist regime in the short term.

Perhaps, though, it is time to allow Cuba the chance at a socio-economic revolution. Some argue the US Government should take a moral high ground and allow its citizens to make their own decisions on trade with and travel to Cuba.