Saturday, September 20, 2008

US Eases Embargo On Storm-Hit Cuba

BYPASSING its trade embargo on communist Cuba, the United States has approved $US250 million ($315 million) in "farm sales" to Havana, including food and construction materials in an aid offer after Hurricanes Gustav and Ike devastated Cuba's crops leaving potential for a food crisis.

The licenses for agricultural sales were approved after Ike lashed Cuba a week ago and "wood, a material essential to rebuilding, is included" a State Department statement handed to reporters at the US Interests Section in Havana said.

The US State Department said in Washington on Monday it regretted that Cuba had rejected its offer of up to $US5 million ($6.3 million) in aid for the victims of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

The US has tense and limited relations with its communist neighbor, which has been under a US embargo for more than four decades.

Cuba last week urged Washington to ease its trade embargo to allow US firms to open private lines of credit for food imports to the cash-strapped island of more than 11 million people.

A Spanish aircraft meanwhile was due in Cuba on Tuesday with 17 tonnes of aid from the World Food Program and another four tonnes from Spain to help those affected by the hurricanes.

Spain also has promised €300,000 ($535,000) for rebuilding social infrastructure, €200,000 ($357,000) for the Red Cross and another €18,000 ($32,000) via the Pan American Health Organization for the repair of medical centers, according to an official statement.

Cuba on Friday said it did not have the resources to recover from the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, including seven dead, 320,000 homes destroyed and extensive damage to crops.

Last week, Spain sent a first aid flight to Cuba with an aircraft ferrying 16 tonnes of aid. Other countries, including Brazil, Russia and Ecuador, have also sent humanitarian assistance.

Source: TheAustralian.News.Com.Au

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