Virginia farmers seek to strike a deal with Cuban State Security

The news report from the Washington Post attempts to portray the foray into Cuba business by Virginia farmers as just another business deal:

Virginia finds trading partner in Cuba

RICHMOND — Queen Victoria is said to have had a bite of an Albemarle Pippin and — poof! — away went the British tariff on the juicy, Virginia-grown apple.

Trade barriers haven’t tumbled quite so quickly for Henry Chiles, whose two grandfathers started shipping Pippins overseas in wooden barrels 100 years ago.

The Charlottesville orchardman has managed without too much trouble to peddle the apples he grows next door to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello across Europe, Mexico and Central America. But as he expands into his newest market, Cuba, he faces substantial obstacles — ones that would stay stubbornly in place even if Fidel or Raul Castro suddenly took a passionate liking to his Pippins.

“Always a lot of challenges, a lot of paperwork, holdups,” said Chiles, 77, patriarch of the family-owned Crown Orchard and Carter Mountain Orchard. “It’s difficult.”

It’s been 12 years since the United States relaxed a trade embargo with the communist nation to allow exports of food and medical products, but strings were attached that make doing business more cumbersome and expensive. Cuba cannot buy on credit from U.S. companies. And sales must be handled through a third-party bank, since there is no direct banking between the countries.

Chiles and other Virginia farmers nevertheless see great promise in the island, so much so that Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore this month led his sixth annual trade mission to Havana. And the commonwealth’s willingness to put up with the hassles seems to be paying off.

However, we have known for decades that when you do business with Cuba, you are not dealing with a typical business entity. Instead, you are dealing directly with Cuban State Security.

Lt. Col. Chris Simmons brings us some historical reference and reminds us of this inconvenient fact in Cuba Confidential:

Today in History: Cuban Intelligence Targeted Minnesota Business Leaders & Students

November 24-26, 1997:  Johanna Tablada and Felix Wilson, spy-diplomats assigned to the Cuban Interests Section, met with business executives and college students in Minnesota.  During their first night, the Cubans attended a dinner meeting with executives from 11 Minnesota companies, including several of the state’s biggest corporations. Hosted by Minneapolis lawyer Larry Koslow, the business dinner reviewed the economic situation in Cuba and nurtured non-binding business deals to commence after the embargo ends. During the following two days, Tablada spoke with students at the University of Minnesota.