Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Pennsylvania Is Trying to "Bust" the Cuban Embargo by the Purchase of Cuban Rum

     This is an up date on the story that I first picked up on in February.  I feel like they are taking the right approach and if the public helps by backing their efforts the day when we will be able to enjoy some of the fine products produced by the country just 90 miles to our south.  "Communist" country is a joke, China, Vietnam, and Russia are all communist countries and we do business with all of them.  We lost more men fighting the Communists in Vietnam than we did in Cuba, but we for some stupid reason we have this bug in our bonnet when it comes to Cuba.
     Pennsylvania's Cuban rum run got its start in a chance meeting last fall in the parking lot in front of the state Capitol.  "'You know, we have rum,'" a visiting Cuban government liaison told state Sen. Chuck McIlhinney, who was walking to his car when he was introduced to her as the senator whose committee oversees how alcohol is sold in Pennsylvania. "And I'm like, 'Yeah, we should buy some.'"   A few months later, the agency that controls Pennsylvania's 600-plus state-owned wine and liquor stores is working to lift the United States' 55-year-old embargo on Cuban rum, one of the island nation's best-known products.

     A purchase of Cuban rum by the sixth-most populous state would be, by all accounts, the biggest shipment of Cuban rum to the U.S. since John F. Kennedy was president, and could pave the way for the nation's private spirits wholesalers to follow suit.   The embargo is on virtually all imports from and exports to Cuba, including rum. If Pennsylvania is successful, it would be the first import of a product produced entirely by the Communist state. The administration of former President Barack Obama allowed imports of charcoal produced by worker-owned cooperatives.

     In recent days, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board submitted the initial paperwork to begin the application process, an agency spokeswoman said, and is now working to provide additional documentation required by the federal government.   There's reason for hope.   The federal government office that enforces the Cuban embargo has begun granting licenses to allow limited exchanges of goods and services under regulations written by the Obama administration that reflect his 2014 move to restore diplomatic relations between the two nations.

     Private wholesalers are already exploring the avenue, according to Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board officials. Neither the Cuban Embassy nor the Treasury Department, which encompasses the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control, would answer The Associated Press' questions about it, although the embassy issued a statement acknowledging Pennsylvania is "interested in building a business relationship" with Cuba's state-run bottler.        Pennsylvania bolstered its relationships in Cuba in February when McIlhinney invited liquor board officials to join a delegation to the country that grew out of an athletic exchange program.   The argument Pennsylvania submits to the assets control office must dovetail with U.S. policy and must show how bringing Cuban rum will benefit Pennsylvania and the economy, Freyre said.

     It's not clear how long a decision will take.  The Department of State will want to review the application, Freyre said, and the assets control office is both short-handed and overwhelmed with interest in applications involving Cuban commerce.   "This is not a 'gimme,'" Freyre said. "This is not a, 'you file and you will get it.' They have very broad discretion. It could be an exercise of many, many months, if not a year."   The process will be inevitably political, McIlhinney said, and state officials are working to get Pennsylvania's congressional delegation on board to advance the cause.   For McIlhinney, the whole thing seems silly: What's the point of an embargo any longer? The Soviets are gone, he said.

     "I don't think that there's a national security risk," McIlhinney said. "It's not like we're sending computer technology or missiles or something. We're talking about buying a rum."