Sunday, July 29, 2007

Lawmakers lukewarm on proposed Cuba policy changes

Lawmakers lukewarm on proposed Cuba policy changes
Jul 29, 2007 02:07 AM
CQ Researcher

Several pending bills call for altering or scrapping major elements of
U.S. policy toward Cuba, including the U.S. trade embargo and travel

Bills by Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., and Sens. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.,
and Michael Enzi, R-Wyo., would remove all travel limits. Rep. William
Delahunt, D-Mass., proposes just removing Bush administration
restrictions on family visits to Cuba.

Supporters of the Delahunt proposal argue that it stands a better chance
of passing than an abolition of all restrictions. They also argue that
if the travel ban were lifted for all Americans, Cuban authorities would
feel free to block access by Cuban Americans, who are seen as carriers
of the democracy virus.

"My biggest worry is that they might have enough tourist dollars from
all Americans that they might block Cuban Americans from entering,"
Carlos Saladrigas of Miami, co-chair of the Cuba Study Group.

Those who support an end to the ban argue that Delahunt's limited ban
amounts to thinking small.

"I'm worried about incrementalism," said Julia Sweig, Latin America
Studies director at the Council on Foreign Relations, who added: "We
need a broader policy that reflects our national interest, and right now
we don't have one. ... The better approach to take, in my view, is to
say: Let a thousand flowers bloom legislatively, in terms of travel, in
terms of getting rid of the embargo."

Nevertheless, the incremental approach has cropped up elsewhere. A
provision inserted in spending legislation would eliminate restrictions
on agricultural sales to Cuba. Bush threatened to veto the bill if it
reaches his desk.

"Lifting the sanctions now ... would provide assistance to a repressive
regime at the expense of the Cuban people," Bush said.

But the sales restrictions have long been unpopular in farm states. Rep.
Jerry Moran, R-Kan., who authored the provision, noted that the United
States trades freely with other repressive countries, including China.

"Why the double standard?" Moran asked.

Havana-born Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., a staunch sanctions
supporter, expects no immediate major changes in Cuba policy. He says an
"overwhelming consensus" supports maintaining sanctions against Cuba
until it meets democratic standards, including the release of political

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