U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker arrived in Havana yesterday and toured the Mariel container terminal and new facilities there, including warehouses and logistical support.
Pritzker was interested in port conditions, the type of equipment used and services available, according to Ana Teresa Igarza, director of the Mariel Special Development Zone (ZEDM), who spoke with the press.
Pritzker described the project as “attractive,” Igarza added.
Charlie Baker, director of the Mariel container terminal, who also accompanied the visitor, told Granma that operations are going “very well,” with a 50% increase in traffic volume, largely as a result of growth in several sectors of the Cuban economy, especially tourism.
Igarza reported that Pritzker, the second high-ranking U.S. official to visit the country recently, asked specifically about challenges facing the Zone, inaugurated in January of 2014 by Presidents Raúl Castro and Dilma Rousseff of Brazil.
Igarza responded that the greatest challenge is the U.S. blockade, which generates fears among some companies considering investments in Cuba.
Pritzker said that one of the objectives of her visit was to develop a better mutual understanding of how the two countries operate, and identify commonalities which will allow progress in the relationship, she added.
This past January, the Obama administration announced a series of modifications in some aspects of the blockade’s implementation, which were recently updated by the Departments of Commerce and the Treasury. Nevertheless, their impact has been minimal and the basic policy remains in full force, hampering the process of normalization of relations between the two countries.
Pritzker also toured recently inaugurated facilities in the Mariel Logistical Support Zone (ZAL), including warehouses and refrigerated storage areas.
The Commerce Secretary was accompanied by a broad delegation, including so-called “regulators,” who specialize in the implementation of different aspects of the blockade in the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) attached to the U.S. Treasury.
Pritzker and the delegation will meet today with their Cuban counterparts to discuss the scope, and the limitations, of recently announced modifications of the blockade policy.
On this last day of her visit, also scheduled are meetings with other Cuban officials and tours of important economic and cultural sites.