By Madeline Baro Diaz | Sun Sentinel
U.S. Reps. Peter Deutsch and Robert Menendez introduced legislation on Friday that would fully tax the profits of U.S. companies that win business deals with Cuba after agreeing to lobby for an easing of trade restrictions against the island.
Deutsch, D-Pembroke Pines, and Menendez, D-NJ, said that it is immoral for U.S. companies to enter into such quid pro quo agreements with Cuba, which they called a “murderous dictatorship.”
This is a lack of patriotism, number one, and it is repugnant,” Menendez said during a news conference at Miami International Airport.
As an example, the congressmen cited the Indiana Farm Bureau, which in October signed an agreement with the Cuban government to sell Cuba $15 million in goods. The agreement was possible under an exception to the U.S. embargo on Cuba, which allows the sale of farm goods to Cuba on a cash basis.
As part of the agreement, the Indiana Farm Bureau agreed to “press in the U.S. Congress for engagement with Cuba and seek a repeal of the existing restrictions to trade and travel with this island nation.”
Deutsch and Menendez denied that their bill restricts political speech, saying it would merely ban companies from agreeing to lobby for Cuba in a contract.
Don Vilwock, president of the Indiana Farm Bureau, said that the agreement they signed is “not legally binding on Cuba or Indiana.” Besides, he said, the farm bureau already has been lobbying for an easing of restrictions against Cuba.
“We’re not doing anything different than what we have been doing,” Vilwock said.
Vilwock said he would be surprised if the legislation were passed in Congress. If the proposed law were approved, he said, it would discourage sales by U.S. firms to Cuba.
Deutsch and Menendez said they expect to win support for the bill.
Staff writer Rafael Lorente contributed to this report.