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June 27, 2000


WASHINGTON - Governor George H. Ryan said today that a potential agreement in Congress to allow the sale of American food to the Republic Of Cuba is a groundbreaking step that will help Illinois farmers, help the people of Cuba and help end the last vestiges of the Cold War.

Ryan, who led a first-of-its-kind humanitarian mission to Cuba last fall, also said that Congress should take the next step and lift the trade embargo on medicine to Cuba.

"I applaud any move that is going to lift the embargo on food," Ryan said. "But this agreement also should be extended to medicine. When we were in Havana, we talked to doctors who were unable to perform surgery on children because they did not have the necessary drugs. In this day and age, we shouldn't allow that to happen."

The governor said he wants Illinois to be first in line to market products and crops in Cuba when the new food sale rules are finalized. Ryan's humanitarian mission has been credited with changing the focus of United States policy toward Cuba. During that trip, he called for the lifting of the U.S. embargo against Cuba.

"This potential agreement is great news and welcome news," Ryan said. "The U.S. embargo of Cuba has not produced what it was intended to produce. It only serves now as the last thread of the Cold War. The embargo hurts Illinois farmers and has been devastating to the people of Cuba. Relaxing these rules is welcome news."

Ryan said he will order the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Commerce and Community Affairs to immediately begin investigating ways that Illinois businesses and Illinois farmers can take advantage of these new rules.

According to the Department of Agriculture, Cuba currently spends an estimated $900 million on food imports in a year. Most of the country's imports come from South America and Europe.

Ryan has said repeatedly that it would be much cheaper for Cuba to import crops and processed food from Illinois.

The congressional agreement, hammered out earlier this week by members of the U.S. House, would potentially allow the sale of American food products and crops to Cuba for the first time in nearly 40 years. The agreement, however, would prevent the Cuban government or the Cuban people from using U.S. banks from financing any sales.

"I stand ready to bring Illinois farmers and exporters together with the people of Cuba so we can put some opportunities together," Ryan said.


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