Legislation would impose a 100 percent tax on sales stemming from agreements to lobby against the embargo.
Hoping to counter Cuba’s efforts to require U.S. business partners to lobby against the U.S. trade embargo in exchange for commercial deals, two U.S. congressmen Friday introduced legislation that would impose a 100 percent tax on sales stemming from such agreements.
The bill proposed by Reps. Peter Deutsch, D-Fla., and Bob Menendez, D-N.J., was in response to revelations that at least two U.S. entities—Port Manatee in Florida and the Indiana Farm Bureau—recently signed deals with Cuba that include a commitment to lobby Washington against the embargo.
‘‘This type of activity should not be occurring,’’ Deutsch told a news conference at Miami International Airport, because the U.S. entities wind up “acting as foreign agents.’‘
‘‘This is repugnant action,’’ Menendez said. “It’s bad business to lobby Congress on behalf of a dictatorship. We can call them nothing less than shills for Fidel Castro.’‘
Sales of food and agricultural products to Cuba are allowed under the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 to help the Cuban people. But an October agreement between Cuba and the Indiana Farm Bureau required the Americans to lobby against the U.S. sanctions.
A copy of the agreement, obtained by The Herald, showed the Farm Bureau “expressed its commitment 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. It is also the intention of the Farm Bureau to promote a resolution on normalized relations with Cuba in the Indiana Legislature.’‘
Similar language was contained in an agreement signed last month between Port Manatee authorities and the Cuban government, according to the Bradenton Herald.
‘‘We are not lobbying as a result of the agreement. That is something we were already doing anyway,’’ Kent Yeager, a spokesman for the Indiana Farm Bureau said by telephone. “Our view is that we should be trading with Cuba, doing more to break down the kinds of regimes there is in Cuba. It’s worked elsewhere.’‘
‘‘It’s deeply troubling to everyone in the business community,’’ said John Kavulich, president of the New York-based U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, which monitors bilateral business opportunities. “These agreements are not appropriate.’‘