MIAMI - The Ana Cecilia made history Wednesday as the first direct supply shipment from the Miami River to Cuba in half a century.
"I think the reason it has taken so long for someone to do this is because its not easy to do," said Leonardo Sanchez Adega, spokesperson for International Port Corporation.
His words may be an understatement to anyone who has dealt with the intricacies of U.S.-Cuba relations. The International Port Corp.'s new for-profit business is transport for non-profit humanitarian supplies and items that are not included in the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba.
One the assessment that supplies such as mattresses and appliances are cheaper and easier to ship by boat than by air, the company charges $5.99 per pound, all licensed under the United States Treasury and Commerce departments as well as the Cuban government.
"The shipments are received by CubaPak," explained Sanchez Adega. "CubaPak is an entity created by Cuban government to receive all humanitarian shipments into Cuba from anywhere in the world."
He said the company follows up with phone calls to the intended recipients to ensure they received the full contents of their packages.
"Trust but verify," he said.
Questions and concerns from South Florida's Cuban exile community were communicated in a letter last month from Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to the Director of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control requesting an investigation into whether International Port Corp. is "in violation of any provision of law, particularly Helms-Burton."
The company spokesman said no commercial items are included as the shipments are purely donations and gifts.
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