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Beyond Diplomacy: Why U.S.-Cuban Trade Remains Dormant

As ties improve between Cuba and the United States, bilateral trade — perhaps the area of greatest interest to consumers — has yet to emerge from its Cold War torpor.

Port of Havana
Port of Havana

HAVANA The United States and Cuba say they are delighted with the way relations are evolving, a year after presidents Raúl Castro and Barack Obama declared an end to decades of hostility. Both countries have since reopened embassies, agreed to reactivate postal service, signed an environmental protection agreement and begun conversations on issues ranging from human rights to compensation for properties confiscated after the 1959 Cuban revolution.

Obama's Secretary of State and Commerce and Agriculture secretaries, as well as a deputy head of the National Security Agency, have been negotiating technical and less glamorous, though crucial, issues like inspecting products and port regulations. Sporting and cultural activities are growing, while Havana is filling with American tourists. Various music promoters are busy organizing the first big U.S. pop concert in Havana next year.

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Mariateresa Fichele

Fifteen years ago, Francesco kept busy by scamming people. He was a regular visitor to the beaches of Terracina, south of Rome, where he was caught several times selling counterfeit Ray-Ban sunglasses. Then came the drugs, which fed a serious substance-induced psychosis and eventually he tested positive for HIV.

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