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Cargo ship leaves US for Cuba, first in 50 years

Thursday, July 12, 2012    

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HAVANA, Cuba (AFP) — For the first time in fifty years, a cargo ship left Miami yesterday directly for Cuba, carrying a load of humanitarian supplies, officials said.

"This first ship, the Ana Cecilia, left with humanitarian shipment, and we are assured that there was nothing to be sold in Cuba," shipping company spokesman Leonardo Sanchez-Adega told AFP.

The company, International Port Corp, says it has obtained a special permit from US authorities which complies with the US trade embargo on Cuba. It says its clients include charitable, religious, and humanitarian groups, as well as family members of people in Cuba, the spokesman said.

Sanchez-Adega added his company plans for ships to leave each Wednesday on the 17-hour trip to Havana, where the 10-member crew will unload its cargo and return, without ever going ashore.

The Ana Cecilia can carry up to 16 containers, for which the company is charging US$5.99 a pound, or about US$13 a kilogram.

Other Florida companies ship to Cuba, through third countries, but Sanchez-Adega says they are the first to offer weekly service directly from Miami to Havana.

The US embargo against Cuba was declared by US President John F Kennedy in 1962 — aimed at bringing down the Americas' only one party Communist regime. Over five decades later, the regime remains in place under President Raul Castro.

The US embargo has been condemned by a majority of the United Nations General Assembly each year since 1992.

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