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Cuba Points A Finger

When it's a question of the U.S. and Cuba, there can be icy and angry words, even on days when there is good news to report.

Wednesday marked Cuba's first deal in 40 years involving the purchase of food from a company in the U.S., wheat, soybeans, corn and rice from Archer Daniels Midland and Farmland Industries.

In Washington, the State Department said it will support the sales, for humanitarian reasons, because of the severe damage caused by Hurricane Michelle.

But Wednesday also brought a statement from the Cuban government blaming U.S. immigration policy for a capsizing believed to have killed 30 Cubans aboard a smuggler's boat in one of the worst such accidents involving migrants from the Caribbean island.

A brief statement read on state television said the latest "grave and painful events" in the Florida Straits were "a consequence of the murderous Cuban Adjustment Act."

President Fidel Castro's government has long argued that the 1966 legislation, which offers preferential treatment to Cubans seeking U.S. residence once they have touched American soil, incites dangerous, illegal migration bids.

"We are gathering more information to give our people about this new crime stimulated by the U.S. government's absurd policy toward Cuba," the statement added, announcing a special state television program on the subject to be broadcast on Friday.

Earlier on Wednesday, the U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search for survivors from the speedboat that capsized in the Florida Strait, giving up hope of finding any of the 30 Cubans, said to include 12 children, aboard the vessel.

The migrants set out from western Cuba late on Friday and failed to show up in Florida — across a notorious, shark-infested 90-mile stretch of ocean — as expected on Saturday.

On Tuesday, the Coast Guard found what was believed to be the migrants' vessel, a white 30-foot speedboat, lying hull up 47 miles southeast of Key West near the southern tip of the Florida Keys.

Cuba's statement, read by state television commentator Randy Alfonso, condemned this latest example of "a criminal operation of human trafficking." While Cubans often used to set out in flimsy rafts and inner tubes, in recent years the preferred mode of transport has been speedboats. The runs are often organized by smuggling rings based in Miami.

As well as the Cuban Adjustment Act, Havana says the "siren calls" of capitalism and the economic hardship caused by the U.S. embargo on Cuba also motivate islanders to try to leave.

But U.S. officials blame Castro for the constant trickle of Cubans across the strait, saying restrictions on travel and immigration, plus the conditions created by a failed economy and an authoritarian political system, are the root causes.

© MMI, CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press and Reuters Limited contributed to this report

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