July 15, 2012
The cargo ship Ana Cecilia, carrying humanitarian goods directly from the United States to Cuba, arrived in Havana Bay on Friday, the first direct shipment since President John Kennedy imposed a U.S. embargo on Cuba in February 1962. He did so as a way of trying to force change on the communist government there, but the regime of the Castro brothers and their associates remains firmly ensconced. The ship, which can hold up to sixteen cargo containers (typically 20 x 8 x 8 ft.), moved only one container on this maiden run, although its owner, International Port Corporation (IPC) in Miami, hopes it will grow into a weekly service.
IPC needed three years to obtain a special permit from the U.S. Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control and the Commerce Department allowing it to make shipments that comply with the embargo. Under its permit, IPC may ship goods Washington considers humanitarian aid, including food, medicine, appliances, furniture and clothes, from authorized groups and from family members. More than 800,000 Cuban-Americans live in Florida, most in the Miami area. The ship charges $5.99 per pound, which is substantially less than the cost of sending items to Cuba indirectly, via foreign ports, which has been going on for years.