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U.S. senators introduce bill to lift embargo, open trade with Cuba

U.S. senators introduce bill to lift embargo, open trade with Cuba
BY CHRIS ADAMS MCCLATCHY WASHINGTON BUREAU
02/12/2015 2:29 PM 02/12/2015 5:41 PM

WASHINGTON
In another step in the process to thaw relations with Cuba, a group of
lawmakers on Thursday introduced legislation to lift the trade embargo
that has existed with the country for decades.

The legislation comes two months after the White House announced its
plans to normalize relations with Cuba, and two weeks after a group of
lawmakers introduced legislation to relax travel restrictions between
the U.S. and Cuba.

The opening to Cuba is a complicated, multi-pronged effort — part of
which Congress can influence, part of which the administration can, and
has, implemented on its own authority. The December announcement by the
White House already loosened some travel and financial restrictions. But
the major controls on travel and trade are much stronger and reversing
them would require congressional action.

The legislation was introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who was
joined by Sens. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Jeff Flake,
R-Ariz., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

According to its sponsors, the bill would eliminate legal barriers to
Americans doing business in Cuba and “pave the way for new economic
opportunities for American businesses and farmers.” If passed, it would
repeal laws on the books that block Americans from doing business in
Cuba; it would not repeal laws addressing human rights or property
claims against the Cuban government.

Said Klobuchar in a statement: “It’s time to the turn the page on our
Cuba policy. Fifty years of the embargo have not secured our interests
in Cuba and have disadvantaged American businesses by restricting
commerce with a market of 11 million people just 90 miles from our shores.”

The legislation is being pushed by farm interests, including the U.S.
Agriculture Coalition for Cuba.

The U.S. embargo against Cuba has existed in some form since 1960, but
it was under the president’s purview until Congress passed the
Helms-Burton Act in 1996. The law says the embargo stays in place until
Cuba holds free and fair elections, releases political prisoners and
guarantees free speech and workers’ rights. Only Congress can lift the
embargo.

The embargo was initially designed to punish Fidel Castro for seizing
U.S. properties in Cuba, embracing the Soviet Union and trying to
subvert many of his Latin American neighbors. Over time, however, the
embargo has been the biggest source of diplomatic and political tension
between the two countries.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican from Miami, said in a
statement that opponents of the embargo attempt to lift it every Congress.

“There is already a process for lifting the embargo: free and fair
elections in Cuba, respect for fundamental human rights, the release of
all political prisoners and other requirements of Helms-Burton,” she
said. “Instead of empowering the regime, we should stand with the Cuban
people and their pro-democracy leaders to ensure that when history is
written, we are on the side of liberty.”

Experts say that overturning the embargo will be difficult — although a
coalition of Democrats, libertarian Republicans and farm state lawmakers
from both parties could eventually make it happen.

But asked in a recent interview with the CBS News program 60 Minutes
whether the trade embargo would stay in place, House Speaker John
Boehner, R-Ohio, said, “I would think so.”

Source: U.S. senators introduce bill to lift embargo, open trade with
Cuba | The Miami Herald The Miami Herald –
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article9855359.html

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