The first maritime vessel to sail
between the United States and Cuba in 50 years landed in the Cuba
capital Havana Friday, delivering humanitarian aid.
The Bolivian-flagged Ana Cecilia set sail from the U.S. city of Miami Wednesday, inaugurating what shipping company International Port Corp. hopes will be weekly maritime service between the two nations since Washington imposed an economic embargo on Havana in 1962.
The small cargo ship carried a single container packed with humanitarian aid sent mostly by Miami-based friends and relatives of Cubans, as well as charitable and religious organizations, including foodstuffs, medicine, clothing, and medical equipment such as orthopedic mattresses and electric wheelchairs, shipping company spokesman Leonardo Sanchez said.
The trip from Miami, where some 1.2 million Cubans live, should take no more than 16 hours, but red tape delayed its arrival.
"It was a problem of bureaucracy ... it was our fault because we filled out the forms incorrectly," Sanchez said.
Due to the embargo, the company had to secure special licenses from the Commerce Department and the U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) that authorize it to transport items considered by U.S. authorities as humanitarian aid.
The 50-year U.S.-led blockade against Cuba, designed to unseat the communist government, severely restricts the island nation's ability to trade with other countries and secure goods on its own.
According to Cuba's National Statistics Bureau, despite the blockade, the U.S. is its seventh-largest trading partner. However, that trade is exclusively unilateral, allowing U.S. food manufacturers to sell their products to the island, earning revenues of about 400 million dollars in 2010.
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