Two days before the inauguration of Donald Trump and after half a century of severed trade relations between the two countries, the first Cuban commercial product will arrive in the United States: 40 tons of charcoal, produced by cooperatives here on the Caribbean island and sold to a U.S. company.
Despite the 50-year embargo, a decree from President Obama allows Cuban cooperatives and private businesses — but not state companies — to export their products to the States.
The measure is meant to strengthen Cuban civil society and is one of several entering into force on Thursday, ahead of Trump’s first day in office, in order to make it more difficult for him to reverse the normalization process. One or more cooperatives will sell their products to the state agency CubanExport, which will then send them to the U.S. buyer.
Charcoal is produced on the island in artisan kilns with marabú wood, a hard and thorny shrub that has invaded thousands of acres of uncultivated lands on the island. Until a few years ago, it represented a headache for the small farmers who had joined a program launched by President Raúl Castro to take over unused land and commit themselves to making them productive.