House rejects easing exports-to-Cuba limits
BY PABLO BACHELET
The House on Friday rejected an initiative to ease restrictions on U.S.
agricultural exports to Cuba, virtually burying any chance that U.S.
policy toward the island could be relaxed by Congress this year.
By a 245-182 margin, the House voted down an amendnment presented by
Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., that would have allowed Cuban officials to
travel to the United States to inspect U.S. export facilities and
products and let Cubans make direct payments to U.S. banks for any
The initiative would have also allowed the Cubans to pay for the goods
after they are shipped from a U.S. port, rather than before as now required.
Rangel's initiative was backed by a coalition of mostly Democratic
opponents to U.S. policies toward Cuba and farm-state Republicans, but
opposed by Cuban-American lawmakers and others.
Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen argued the initiative would
provide Cuba, deemed by the State Department as a state sponsor of
terrorism, direct access to U.S. banks, and that Havana would use the
visas for its inspectors to infiltrate spies into the United States.
The vote Friday was a defeat for Rangel and other lawmakers who say the
U.S. embargo against the island has failed to dislodge the Castro
government. Last month, the House voted against an effort to cut U.S.
aid to dissident groups, and Democrats did not allow any amendments
easing travel restrictions from going to the floor for a vote.
According to a recent report by the U.S. International Trade Commission,
an independent government agency that studies trade-related issues,
lifting some U.S. restrictions would boost U.S. exports to the island by
between $176 million and $350 million.