Posted on Tue, May. 15, 2007
Florida rancher trades with Cuba, despite political scene
Florida cattle rancher John Parke Wright was two weeks away from a
business trip to Cuba when he heard that Fidel Castro had relinquished
temporary power to his brother Raúl.
The Naples businessman did not break stride.
When he arrived in Cuba in mid-August, Wright was greeted by Castro's
older brother Ramón, an 82-year-old farmer who shuns politics.
''I saw a smooth transition,'' Wright recalled. “Raúl Castro is a good
businessman, a good manager.''
Wright, who owns the Naples-based consulting and trading firm J.P.
Wright & Co., was not expecting political upheaval in Cuba and has not
changed his mind since he was back in Cuba in March for the annual
Boyeros Cattle Show.
Wright's company obtained a Treasury Department license to sell to Cuba
after Congress reauthorized U.S. food exports under the 2000 Trade
Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act.
Now he says he has more than 300 head of Florida cattle ready for
export, but most of the shipment has been on hold since 2005 because of
problems agreeing on health testing rules for the animals. Before Castro
came to power in 1959, Cuba imported more than one million head of
cattle from the United States.
While Wright believes Fidel Castro is on the mend, ''I don't see a
return to office in the same sense that one has witnessed Fidel Castro
in the past,'' he said. ''The Cubans are running the show,'' he said.
“There is a younger team in place to run the future of Cuba along
— JANE BUSSEY