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With Cash And Fat Fryers, Americans Feed Cuba's Growing Free Market

Greg Allen

NPR

Jun 24, 2014

Excerpts:

"Every day, you can see signs of a subtle change in relations between Cuba and the U.S. at Miami International Airport.More Cubans than ever before are coming to the U.S. to visit, and the number of Cuban-Americans traveling back to the island is also at record levels. With all the visitors, money and goods are now traveling to the island from the United States.

It's a legal loophole in the 50-year-old trade embargo — one that's having a real impact on Cuba's economy, and allowing Cuban-Americans to become investors in Cuba's emerging private sector."

...

"Because of the changes in regulations in both countries, travel between the U.S. and Cuba is at record levels — and growing. That includes so-called people-to-people travel, trips that are organized by groups for education or cultural exchange.

But by far, most of the travel to Cuba is by Cuban-Americans, and it's having an important economic impact on the island.

'The presence of the Cuban-Americans is just undeniable,' says Joe Scarpaci, who heads the Center for the Study of Cuban Culture and the Economy and has co-authored a book on Cuba's emerging consumer culture.

Perhaps even more important than their travel are the unrestricted remittances Cuban-Americans can now send back to family on the island. Scarpaci estimates that goods and cash sent by Cuban-Americans now is in the range of $5 billion a year, making it the nation's second-largest source of income."