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Cuba Turns to U.S. for Support

Relief: Hurricane damage prompts Havana's request to buy food and medicine, sources say.

November 16, 2001|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Reeling from Hurricane Michelle, Cuba has opened talks with the United States for the purchase of millions of dollars' worth of food and medicine, administration and congressional sources said Thursday.

Although the U.S. embargo against Cuba has been in effect for about four decades, exports of food to the island nation were authorized by Congress last year.

Cuban President Fidel Castro had barred food purchases because no American financing is permitted.

But Castro has made an exception because of the devastation of Michelle, which destroyed thousands of houses and vast tracts of farmland.

Cuba's problems have been aggravated by economic difficulties resulting partly from a tourism decline dating from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

Cuban officials have presented a list of goods for examination by U.S. officials and also have been in contact with 15 agricultural companies and 15 firms that produce either pharmaceuticals or medical supplies, the sources said.

Among the products Cuba is reportedly seeking are wheat, soy, flour, corn and rice. Estimates of the total value of the products requested range from $3 million to $10 million. If approved, the goods will be shipped on U.S. or third-country vessels.

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