The heads of the USA based travel agency organizations and the American Farm Bureau, representing 5.5 million USA farmers has called for unfettered travel to Cuba by USA citizens as well as private financing of agriculture sales to Cuba. Under current law, sales to Cuba must be "cash only". The Obama Administration is considering new options and dialogue with Cuba. The United States has become Cuba's No. 1 source of imported food. Cuba is mostly buying American wheat, chicken and corn. The European Union has received and accepted a request by Cuba to join the EU through the EU Cotonou Agreement.. Approval by the EU would result in an EU office being opened in Havana.
Director Steven Spielberg was the guest of the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Arts and Industry during the first week of November, 2002. He met with admirers, members of the Jewish community and President Castro before returning to the USA.
Oscar Elias Biscet, the 41 year old, Cuban physician turned activist has been released, on October 31, 2002, from Cuba Si prison near Holguin after 3 years imprisonment. There are believed to be 320 other prisoners of conscience held in Cuban prisons under vague allegations of inciting crime, dishonoring national symbols and disorderly public conduct.
The European Parliament's Conference of Presidents has announced Oswaldo Paya, founder of the Varela Project, as its 2002 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought winner. Paya was given a last minute visa to go to Europe to receive the award where he also criticized USA policy towards Cuba.
Cuba recently hosted Agriculture and Healthcare related companies in Havana during September 2009. Cuba purchased almost $100 million dollars of USA goods and services. The event was licensed by the USA Departments of the Treasury and Commerce.
The U.S. Interests Section in Habana, adjacent to Hotel Nacional on the Malecon, has stepped up its activities to promote democracy and peaceful change in Cuba. Cuba has blocked an electronic sign with black flags symbolizing Cuban who have died due to "terrorism" from the USA and others intent of the fall of the Castro government. Cuban journalists are allowed access to uncensored Internet inside the Interests Section and the people were given short wave radios capable of tuning in non-Cuban based radio stations, including Radio Marti.
Raul Castro is the new President of Cuba. USA policy towards Cuba is not expected to change in 2010.
The Association of Travel-Related Industry Professionals [ATRIP], formed last June, is heading the lobbying efforts to lift the travel ban. The industry's argument: Easing restrictions could boost the U.S. economy in the long term by as much as $1.6 billion annually and create as many as 23,000 new jobs
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