Seeing red over ketchup for Castro

Who said the Cold War is over? Across the 90-mile stretch of ocean between Florida and Cuba, the waves of war are icier than ever.

Take the case of Javier Ferreiro, 45, a Spanish businessman who lives in the Cuban capital, Havana. Arraigned in Miami on Friday, he faces 20 years in a Florida jail and fines of up to pounds 600,000 for "trading with the enemy". His crime was that he allegedly shipped tomato ketchup, disposable nappies and sanitary towels to Fidel Castro's dreaded Communist regime.

Florida prosecutors are not saying Mr Castro's forces might squirt the ketchup into the faces of American troops during a Cuban invasion of Key West. They are merely following the letter of the federal Trading With The Enemy Act and the embargo imposed on the island soon after Mr Castro's ragtag revolutionaries ousted Fulgencio Batista in 1959.

Until the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba could get most goods from there. Now, nappies and sanitary towels are desperately needed and ketchup is a coveted addition to the ration books still used by Cubans.

Mr Ferreiro was allegedly caught "red-handed" last week, buying up ketchup from a supermarket on the island of Key Biscayne, across a causeway from Miami. Prosecutors say his shipping documents suggested the goods were headed for the Dominican Republic but that they ended up in Cuba.

To support one of the world's most exemplary public health care programmes, Cuba needs medicine. Thanks to the embargo, pharmacists' shelves are bare. Perhaps that is why a wealthy 71-year-old American philanthropist, Millard Harmon, flew pounds 32,000 worth of penicillin and asthma inhalers on his private plane to help Cuban children last month. He was also allegedly "trading with the enemy": his Beechcraft plane was confiscated when he arrived back in Albany, New York, and he could face jail.

"Actually, the stuff was meant for the Cayman Islands but I had engine trouble and had to land in Havana. The good Lord does strange things to me," Mr Harmon insisted.

If the embargo arguably made sense after the 1962 Cuban missile crisis and during the long presence of Soviet troops, weaponry and advisers, the US now stands virtually alone in its old Cold War policy of trying to starve Mr Castro out.

There has been more bark than bite to the so-called Helms-Burton law, which President Clinton signed last year, making it harder for foreign firms to deal with Cuba, but it has hurt US relations with trading partners, such as Canada, Mexico and the European Union.

Suspending parts of the bill, Mr Clinton barely concealed the fact that approving it was a pre-election move to win the votes of anti-Castro Cuban-Americans. That influence was clear again the other day, when bomb threats from Cuban exiles forced a Miami radio station to stop playing salsa songs from popular Cuban bands such as Los Van Van and Manolin, the so-called "Doctor of Salsa". A moderate Cuban-American civil rights group compared the threats from anti-Castro Cubans with the Spanish Inquisition.

Another embargo-breaker, Ivan Rojas, 58, a Cuban- American, was sentenced to two years' jail last week by a federal judge in Miami. Despite the fact that his shipment was morelethal than ketchup or diapers - the US Coastguard found him on a lobster boat loaded down with machine guns and explosives bound for Cuban dissidents on the island - the judge set him free, pending appeal.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
A poster by Durham Constabulary
news
Arts and Entertainment
books New York Times slammed over summer reading list
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine