It is likely the first American manufacturer to open shop in Cuba since the 1959 revolution.
The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) approved co-owners Horace Clemmons and Cuban-born Saul Berenthal to build a factory at the port of Mariel (a tree trade zone west of Havana). The factory is intended to manufacture small tractors for sale to private farmers and builders in Cuba. The tractors will be called “Oggun” after the god of iron in the Afro-Cuban religion, Santeria.
Under Obama’s brick-by-brick dismantling of the rules and regulations that make up the US Cuban embargo (collectively referred to as “Cubamacare” by the Cuba Journal), certain US investors can gain clearance to invest and sell in Cuba only to the small but growing private sector and cooperatives. The policy is intended to focus any US-based business development on the promotion of free enterprise and avoid direct dealings with the Cuban government.
The tractors are designed to meet Cuba’s needs by being small, affordable and versatile. And a project to manufacture food production equipment for Cuba’s private businesses also carries the weight of potential ridicule and scorn should any future US President decide to roll back Obama’s pro-Cuba initiatives.
Another reason why Cuba needs a lot of tractors at a low price point has to do with a policy change following the dramatic reduction of subsidies in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union. According to a report, “Cultivating Havana: Urban Agriculture and Food Security in the Years of Crisis,” published in 1999 by Catherine Murphy, the Castro government, “instituted drastic measures such as planned blackouts, the use of bicycles for mass transportation, and the use of animals in the place of tractors.”
Here is an article about how Cuba’s organic farmers are aiming for rich soil.