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Cuba’s Coke and Hollywood among embargo’s paradoxes

Cuba’s Coke and Hollywood among embargo’s paradoxes
By Francisco Jara

Havana (AFP) – Despite Cuba’s reputation as an island cut off from all
things American, it is possible to drink Coca-Cola and watch Hollywood
movies here, one of the paradoxes of the five-decade embargo.

Cuba’s postcard image of pre-embargo American cars rolling down Havana
streets that are so close yet so far from Miami belies the fact that the
United States is currently the communist island’s ninth-largest trade
partner.

That is because the US Congress approved food exports to Cuba in 2000
under pressure from the domestic agricultural industry.

Cuba at first rebuffed the offer, but relented after Hurricane Michelle
swept the island the following year, and now imports much of its food
from the US — $348 million in agricultural products last year, mainly
frozen chicken.

Cuban restaurants, hotels and supermarkets also carry Coca-Cola, one of
the most iconic products of American companies’ global reach.

But they import their Coke mainly from other Latin American countries,
not the United States.

A can costs $1.20 — double the price of the local competition, “Tukola”
and “Tropicola,” whose affordability makes them more popular with Cubans.

Despite the island’s reputation for hostility toward its northern
neighbour, state television is also known to broadcast Hollywood movies,
even while they are still on the big screen in the United States.

In March, for example, state TV showed “12 Years a Slave” five days
after it won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

The embargo bans US film studios from selling movie rights to Cuba, and
the island’s TV networks do not release details on where they get the films.

However, it is impossible to pay with American credit cards on the
island or find US pharmaceutical products.

View gallery
A sign shows the departure times for flights to Cuba at Miami
International Airport on December 19, …
Across the Florida Straits, the Cuban consulate in Washington has had
trouble maintaining day-to-day operations because no bank would accept
it as a client under the embargo’s ban on financial transactions.

– Eying post-embargo future -

The embargo began as a partial export ban in 1960 and was expanded to a
full injunction on trade by president John F. Kennedy in 1962, in the
aftermath of the disastrous US-backed Bay of Pigs invasion.

“These 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked,” President
Barack Obama said Wednesday as he announced a historic rapprochement.

But it would take an act of Congress, which comes under the full control
of Obama’s Republican opponents in January, to repeal the embargo.

Cuba says the embargo it calls a “blockade” has cost it $100 billion.

But even while the embargo remains in place, the new detente will have
beneficial economic effects for the island, said Cuban economist Pavel
Vidal.

“American companies can’t invest, but others will, trying to position
themselves ahead of a future lifting of the embargo,” he told AFP.

Already, some 400 flights per month connect the US and Cuba, though
legally they can only transport Cuban-Americans to see their families or
US citizens on educational, artistic, humanitarian or other approved trips.

For his part, Cuban President Raul Castro allowed Cubans to travel
without special permits in 2013.

Cubans with relatives in the US can currently receive money from them,
but that exception hinges on the goodwill of whoever occupies the White
House at a given moment.

On Wednesday, Obama again lifted the amount of remittances that can be
sent back to Cuba, from $500 to $2,000 every three months.

“Among the most immediate effects we’re going to see is the increase in
money sent to families,” a Latin American diplomat said, speaking on
condition of anonymity.

Source: Cuba’s Coke and Hollywood among embargo’s paradoxes – Yahoo News

http://news.yahoo.com/cubas-coke-hollywood-among-embargos-paradoxes-233847924.html;_ylt=AwrBEiLuipVUODQAzbHQtDMD

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