HAVANA, July 13 A small cargo ship sailed into
Havana Bay on Friday with the first maritime shipment from Miami
to Cuba in 50 years.
The Ana Cecilia carried just one container filled with food
and other items, but it was the beginning of what shipper
International Port Corp hopes will be a weekly service linking
the United States and Cuba, longtime ideological foes.
There are other shipping services between the two countries,
but none linking Miami, center of the Cuban exile community in
the United States and opposition to Cuba's communist government,
"“It's one of the best things that has happened. We have to
start to do things like this now and we have to start to create
bridges like this," said Leonardo Sanchez, spokesman for
International Port Corp.
The company was granted a license by the U.S. government,
which has imposed a trade embargo against Cuba since 1962.
U.S. President Barack Obama has eased the embargo in a few
ways, such as allowing Cuban Americans to travel freely and send
unlimited remittances to cub and making it easier for Americans
in general to travel to Cuba.
The company is allowed to transport items that Washington
considers humanitarian aid - among them food, medicine,
appliances, furniture and clothes - from authorized groups and
from family members. The ship has space for 16 containers and
charges $5.99 per pound.
The Ana Cecilia was supposed to arrive in Havana on
Thursday, but had to sail through the sometimes rough seas of
Cuba's customs bureaucracy before it could come to port.
It could face more problems in September, when stiff new
import taxes take effect that could discourage people from
shipping items to Cuba.
A few Cubans watched the Ana Cecilia sail into Havana Bay,
among them peanut vendor Victor Angel Diaz, 75.
“"This is good, it's a help for the family members," he
said. “It doesn't have anything to do with anything, not
politics or anything."