Cuba to sign more food deals before U.S. election
HAVANA -- Just days before an American presidential election whose outcome could alter U.S.-Cuba relations, communist officials were designing deals to buy $150 million more in corn, wheat, cattle and other American farm products at a trade fair opening Monday.
Agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland of Illinois, Tyson foods of Arkansas, Splash Tropical Drinks of Florida, Marsh Supermarkets of Indiana and White Rose Foods of New Jersey were among 125 U.S. companies participating in the weeklong International Fair of Havana.
"This is happening at a crucial moment, during elections in the United States," Pedro Alvarez, chairman of the Cuban food import company Alimport said Saturday after inspecting stands at the exposition center where the Americans will display food samples.
"Many companies and their people will come after the elections," so they don't miss the chance to vote Tuesday, Alvarez said.
Alvarez declined to talk about the U.S. presidential candidates or express a preference.
Democratic contender John Kerry has said he would maintain more than four decades of trade sanctions against Cuba if elected president. But many on the island believe any change to reverse the U.S. government's increasingly tough policies on Cuba would be more likely with Kerry in the White House.
President Bush has steadily tightened restrictions on Cuba over the past four years, making it virtually impossible for most Americans to travel here legally, and tightening loopholes through which U.S. dollars have filtered into the country despite sanctions.
While the four-decade old trade embargo hurts Cuba, "it also has a serious impact on Americans, too," Alvarez said.