In Habana Vieja, the historic center of the Cuban capital, American apples are on sale for half a convertible peso each. This blogger bought one from a street vendor, inquiring where the apples came from. The United States, she told me. What about the trade embargo (el bloqueo), I asked.
“Yes, el bloqueo exists, but I don’t know how these come into the country,” she said.
Here’s a link to a BBC report on the state of Virginia’s apple exports to Cuba: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20802951 One of the apple growers interviewed describes his visit to Cuba, meeting Fidel Castro and describing him as “the smartest politician I’ve ever seen.”
Of course, the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, first enacted in 1960, is not exactly watertight. In 1999 President Bill Clinton simultaneously tightened and loosened the embargo, prohibiting the foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies from trading with Cuba while allowing agricultural and medical products to be sold on a cash-up-front, no credit basis. In addition to apples, here are some more American products I saw on sale in Cuba:
- Coca-Cola (produced by the company’s Mexican subsidiary).
- Jack Daniels whiskey
- Head and Shoulders shampoo
- Colgate toothpaste (produced in China).
Here’s a link to the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, which advises American exporters on trading with Cuba: http://www.cubatrade.org/