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Friday, 30 November, 2001, 07:57 GMT
US sells food to Cuba
Fidel Castro
The US says the ban stays until Castro leaves power
By Daniel Schweimler in Havana

The United States has exported food to Cuba for the first time in more than 40 years.

President Castro's government requested the sale to help cope with the devastation caused by Hurricane Michelle four weeks ago.

Flooding after Hurricane Michele
The hurricane caused massive destruction
Officials in Washington stressed that the trade embargo against the island's communist government remained firmly in place.

The deal was made possible by legislation enacted by the US Congress last year which allows the sale of some food and medicine to Cuba.

The US Agriculture Department confirmed that Havana had bought 50,000 tonnes of US wheat, more than 40,000 tonnes of corn, and 12,500 tonnes of rice.

Havana had earlier turned down a US offer of aid, saying it had the money to pay for what it needed.

UN vote

America's embargo against Cuba is supported by the island's influential exile community in Miami, but is being increasingly criticised elsewhere in the United States.

The US agricultural community has said it hopes these first shipments will mark the opening of a longer term trading relationship with Cuba, which lies just a 140 kilometres (90 miles) away.

The government in Havana has consistently called for the embargo to be lifted, saying it stops medicines reaching Cuban hospitals and books reaching Cuban schools.

The United Nations voted earlier this week for the 10 year running for the embargo to be lifted, but Washington has said it will remain in place until President Castro leaves power and democracy returns to Cuba.

Officials from both countries have said this weeks' sales are a one-off.

But contacts were made, the sale did go ahead, and despite the rhetoric, relations between the two countries may not be the same again.

See also:

17 Nov 01 | Americas
Castro welcomes one-off US trade
22 Nov 01 | Americas
US company signs food deal with Cuba
05 Nov 01 | Americas
Cuba's clean-up begins
13 Aug 01 | Americas
Cuba considers life after Castro
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