United States Cuba Policy & Business Blog

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Bill Richardson Tries to Push Imports to Cuba

Richardson met with Alarcon on Monday. On Tuesday he visited chamber of commerce President Pedro Alvarez and Igor Montero, president of Alimport, the Cuban government agency responsible for agricultural commerce.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson met with Cuban political and economic authorities during a visit to Havana to promote trade between his state and the communist-ruled island.
Richardson told reporters that he dined on Monday night with the leader of the National Assembly, Ricardo Alarcon, and that his conversations continued Tuesday with the president of the Chamber of Commerce, Pedro Alvarez, and were “very positive.”

“I ate dinner last night with my friend Ricardo Alarcon,” said the governor, a former Democratic presidential hopeful thought to be close to President Barack Obama.

He said his talks with the president of the Chamber of Commerce were “very positive,” adding that New Mexico “is interested in selling (Cuba) wheat, beans, potatoes and apples.”

He added that the delegation accompanying him is comprised of nine people, including several businessmen who are interested in selling agricultural products to Cuba.

This is the third business mission organized by the state of New Mexico to Cuba.

Richardson personally paid his own travel expenses and will return to the United States on Friday, his spokesperson in Santa Fe, Alarie Ray-Garcia, reported on Monday.

In 2001, trade operations with Cuba were resumed by certain U.S. companies after Washington excluded food and medicines from the economic embargo maintained against the island since 1962.

Cuba imports around 80 percent of the food its 11.2 milllion people consume, with most of those products coming from the United States.

The Cuban state-run firm Alimport, which was led by the current Chamber of Commerce head, recently reported that since 2001 it has paid to U.S. companies $4.4 billion for food imports.

Richardson is the first U.S. governor to visit Havana this year and his trip sparked speculation about possible political activities between the two countries.

U.S. media recalled that the governor visited the island in the late 1990s as an emissary of then-President Bill Clinton and intervened in the release of political prisoners.

After taking office in January, Obama said he wanted to improve relations with Havana and eliminated some of the many restrictions on Cuban-Americans who want to visit their relatives on the island or send them money or gifts.

Seven U.S. Democratic lawmakers visited Cuba last April and met with President Raul Castro and his brother and predecessor Fidel, among other officials.

Source: Herald Tribune
Submitted by josek on Wed, 2009-08-26 11:13.