April 30, 2017
Pennsylvania, a state with some of the nation's strictest and most archaic liquor laws, will attempt to lift a longstanding embargo on Cuban rum, potentially bringing one of the Cold War foe's most valued imports to the United States.
The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is reportedly putting together an application to the U.S. Treasury that would enable a shipment of Cuban rum to reach American soil for the first time since John F. Kennedy occupied the White House, according to ABC News.
Relations between the United States and Cuba thawed during the final years of President Obama's second term, when diplomatic ties with Havana were restored, prisoners were exchanged and U.S. airlines were granted permission to resume flights to the Communist island nation. Limited forms of trade have since been granted by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control to permit Cuban imports and exports.
The death of Fidel Castro last November also appeared to signal the possibility that further inroads might be made for U.S. companies to invest in Cuba, though President Donald Trump's stance on the detente with Cuba remains unresolved.
Cuba currently ships rum to more than 120 countries around the world, but with a 55-year-old economic embargo still in place, the world's biggest rum consumer, the United States, remains off limits.
The PLCB believes importing Cuban rum could bring a significant economic boon to its more than 600 state-owned wine and liquor stores.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, an opponent of privatizing the system, has worked to modernize the state system through the passage of Act 39, a measure that relaxed wine laws and loosened some restrictions on the sale of beer.
Much like Cuban cigars, Cuba's Havana Club rums carry a mystique that Pennsylvania legislators are confident would entice shoppers in the nation's sixth most populous state.
Pennsylvania state Sen. Chuch Mcllhinney said he expects that the process will almost certainly be subject to political forces shaped by the adversarial history between the U.S. and Cuba. Any proposal to bring the rum to Pennsylvania will ultimately need to undergo State Department review.
Speaking to ABC News, Mcllhinney downplayed the notion that such an exchange represents a national security threat.
"We're talking about buying a rum."