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American Businessmen Gather in Cuba - 2002-10-02


There was a very unusual gathering of Americans in Cuba on Thursday. The largest gathering of American businessmen in Cuba since the communist revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power in 1959. It was all made possible by an exception to the longstanding U.S. trade embargo, allowing sales of food and other agricultural products to Cuba as long as the goods are paid for in cash. Betty Van Etten has details.

It was an American invasion Cubans were happy to see.

BUSINESSMAN #1
"We're trying to sell rice."

BUSINESSMAN #2
"We're here to show our butter, cheeses, dairy products."

Almost 300 U.S. companies came to Havana, seeking a share of the almost one billion dollars the Cuban government spends on food imports each year. From baked goods, to chewing gum, and canned foods, Cubans had a chance to sample many of the brands familiar to Americans. The main sponsor was US agriculture business giant, Archer Daniel Midland. Its chairman, Allen Andreas, echoed the sentiments of most of the participants.

ALLEN ANDREAS, ARCHER DANIEL MIDLAND CORP.
"We hope that it leads to better trade and more open relationships in the future, and we thank you for your support."

Fidel Castro himself came by to show Cuban government support. "This will make good steak," said Mr. Castro as he examined products his country needs because it cannot feed itself. Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura, a former professional wrestler, took part in the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

JESSE VENTURA, GOVERNOR OF MINNESOTA
"And I never dreamed that I would see our two flags standing side by side. But it proves to me, just as it did when I ran for governor of Minnesota, that anything can happen."

Many of the fair's participants called for a complete end of the American trade embargo against Cuba. But the U.S. government is against any further easing of sanctions against the country until Cuba embraces democratic and economic reforms.

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