House eases rules on U.S. ag sales to Cuba
BY PABLO BACHELET
The House passed on Thursday an amendment that rolls back Bush
administration restrictions on U.S. agricultural exporters to Cuba.
The amendment, offered by Kansas Republican Rep. Jerry Moran, was
approved by a voice vote. It reverses a Bush administration view that
Cuba has to pay in advance before agricultural goods are shipped to the
The approval came after Reps. Moran, New York Democrat Jose Serrano and
Miami Republican Lincoln Diaz-Balart debated Cuba's ability to pay its
creditors and whether more U.S. trade with Cuba would usher democratic
reforms to the island.
The passage marks a rare victory for opponents of U.S. policy on Cuba,
who have suffered a string of defeats since 2005, when some members of
Congress have unsuccessfully attempted to overturn President Bush's
gradual tightening of sanctions against the island on everything from
travel to food exports.
But the victory was tempered by the fact that for the first time in
nearly a decade, opponents of the travel restrictions to Cuba were
unable to present any amendments to the financial services spending bill
on technical grounds.
In 2005, the Bush administration interpreted a 2000 law that allows U.S.
agricultural exports to Cuba as requiring payment from Havana before the
goods are shipped to the island and not upon reception. This apparently
minor change made it more expensive for Havana to purchase U.S. goods
like rice and chicken.
Moran called his amendment a ''rather modest modification'' in U.S. Cuba
policy and said agricultural exports had fallen since 2005 because of
the new rule.
Diaz-Balart said the new rule protected U.S. exporters from Cuba's
''abysmal'' record of defaulting on its payments.