January 27, 1999
Panama, Cuba ink investment accord, decry embargo

                  PANAMA CITY (Reuters) -- Panama voiced support for Cuba and
                  condemned U.S.-led international trade sanctions against the communist
                  nation on Wednesday when it signed a bilateral accord to promote mutual

                  "This agreement strengthens Panama's relationship with Cuba, and is a voice
                  of protest, of Panama's rejection of unilateral measures against the island,"
                  Panamanian Foreign Minister Jorge Ritter told a news conference.

                  Cuba has opened its state-regulated economy to private business. The
                  agreement will legally protect private Panamanian investment there from
                  nationalization or interference by the Cuban government.

                  "It is a solid bridge between the business communities of both countries,"
                  Cuban Foreign Investment Minister Ibrahim Ferradaz said.

                  Ferradaz added that the agreement and the rapid expansion of certain
                  economic sectors in Cuba, such as the booming tourism industry, were signs
                  that economic sanctions against Cuba had failed to deter investment in the

                  He noted in particular the U.S. Helms-Burton Law, which he said "failed
                  once more."

                  The Helms-Burton Law, which was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1996,
                  declared foreign investment in Cuba illegal. The law has met general
                  disapproval from the international business community.

                   Copyright 1999 Reuters.