While Americans’ attention has been focused on Iraq, a number of key developments have occurred with respect to Cuba and U.S.-Cuba relations. In response to numerous inquiries received by the Cuba Policy Foundation, this edition of “Embargo Update” summarizes six of the major developments.
1 | CUBAN-AMERICAN ATTITUDES TOWARD U.S. POLICY SHIFTING
2 | CUBA EMERGES AS TOP-FIFTY U.S. EXPORT MARKET FOR AG COMMODITIES IN 2002
3 | DIPLOMATIC TENSIONS HEAT-UP BETWEEN WASHINGTON AND HAVANA: STAY TUNED
4 | DISSIDENT CLAMP-DOWN IN CUBA SPARKS OUTCRY; CONGRESSMAN FLAKE INTRODUCES 5 5 RESOLUTION DENOUNCING ACTS
5 | WORKING GROUP ON CUBA ANNOUNCED IN U.S. SENATE
6 | OFAC PUBLISHES NEW REGULATIONS ON CUBA
CUBAN-AMERICAN ATTITUDES TOWARD U.S. POLICY SHIFTING: South Florida’s Cuban-American community is expressing unprecedented support for easing elements of the United States’ embargo of Cuba. In a public opinion poll conducted for the Miami Herald in February 2003, among Cuban-Americans living in South Florida, there is significant support for ending the travel ban, lifting the cap on remittances, and increasing outreach efforts towards those on the island. Here is a sample of some of the results:
The Travel Ban: Among Cuban-Americans living in South Florida, 47% responded that they support lifting travel restrictions for all U.S. citizens who want to travel to Cuba, as compared to 46% who oppose and 7% who said they don’t know.
The Remittances Cap: Among Cuban-Americans living in South Florida, 49% responded that they support lifting restrictions on [the] amount of money that U.S. citizens can send to their family in Cuba, as compared to 44% who oppose and 7% who said they don’t know. (Currently, Americans are permitted to send on $300 per quarter to friends and family in Cuba.)
“The Embargo”: Among Cuban-Americans living in South Florida,, to the question, “Generally speaking, do you support or oppose the U.S. embargo of Cuba?” 60% responded “support,” 27% responded “oppose,” and 12% responded “Don’t know.”
Dialogue with the Island: Among Cuban-Americans living in South Florida, several questions asked respondents about their views on existing initiatives to enter dialogue with those living in Cuba, to which over 50% responded “support,” while under 40% responded “oppose.”
For more information and analysis of the polling results, please visit the following link at the Miami Herald: http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/world/cuba/5168727.htm
CUBA EMRGES AS TOP-FIFTY U.S. EXPORT MARKET FOR AG COMMODITIES IN 2002
In 2002, Cuba bought over $138 million in U.S. agricultural products in 2002, making the island a top-fifty U.S. agricultural export market for American farm goods, according to recent data from the U.S. Census Agency. 2002 was the first full year of such sales to Cuba, under a U.S. law passed in 2000, in which Americans are permitted to sell agricultural products to Cuba on a cash-only basis. The top-ten state exporters to Cuba in 2002: Illinois ($68.6 mil.); Florida ($28.9 mil.); Georgia ($9.9 mil.); Ohio ($9.7 mil.); Arkansas ($7.3 mil.); Connecticut ($6.7 mil.); Minnesota ($2.7 mil.); New Jersey ($1.9 mil.); Indiana ($1.7 mil.); California ($1.6 mil.). [Note that sales figures indicate from where a product was sold and not necessarily where it was produced (e.g. Kansas wheat sold through an Illinois-based company).]
Notably, Florida was as a top benefactor of U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba. The state emerged as the United States’ second leading exporter to Cuba in 2002, with exports topping $29 million in mainly agricultural commodities. In addition, Florida ports such as Pensacola, Jacksonville, and Tampa were active in the shipping of U.S. exports to Cuba.
An October 2001 study produced by Texas A&M University for the Cuba Policy Foundation shows that Cuba is a potential annual U.S. agricultural export market of over $1.2 billion. For more information on this study, including state-by-state export potential and commodity-by-commodity breakdowns, please contact the Cuba Policy Foundation.
DIPLOMATIC TENSIONS HEAT-UP BETWEEN WASHINGTON AND HAVANA: STAY TUNED
In early March, the Cuban government announced that American diplomats stationed at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana cannot travel beyond Havana province without prior approval by the government of Cuba. The American government reciprocated by requiring approval for Cuban diplomats stationed at the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, DC, to travel beyond the DC metropolitan area. Previous to the new rule, diplomats only had to give notice to the host government of travel plans. Cuba’s actions against American diplomats were purported to be in response to meetings with Cuban dissidents and independent journalists by James Cason, Chief of the U.S. Interests Section, Havana.
In addition to signaling rising political tensions between the two countries, the limits on movement will have immediate impact on diplomats’ in each country. Mr. Cason has logged over 6,000 miles of travel in Cuba since his arrival at his post last summer. Meanwhile, diplomats at the Cuban Interests Section, have traveled extensively around the United States to meet with business people, journalists, citizen groups, and others. Whether these tensions will increase or will relax remains to be seen.
For additional details, see the March 14, 2003, report, “Cuba limits travel of U.S. diplomats; U.S. reciprocates, officials say,” by George Gedda for the Associated Press, available at: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20030315/ap_wo_en_ge/na_gen_us_cuba_1
Meanwhile, a Cuban passenger airliner was high jacked to Florida during a trip between destinations on the island. Thirty-seven persons, including six high jackers, arrived in the aircraft at Key West International airport on March 19. The six high jackers will be prosecuted in the United States. Many passengers on the plane have returned to Cuba, but some have opted to apply for asylum in the United States. The aircraft will be auctioned in the United States, and the proceeds will benefit a Cuban-American woman who won a judgment against the Cuban government in relation to a 1995 spy case.
The Cuban government has said the U.S. decision to prosecute the high jackers is “a modest step forward,” but has decried the decision to not return the aircraft and continues to denounce the U.S. policy that allows Cubans who reach American soil to apply for asylum in the United States.
DISSIDENT CLAMP-DOWN IN CUBA SPARKS OUTCRY; CONGRESSMAN FLAKE INTRODUCES RESOLUTION DENOUNCING ACTS
Over the past week and a half, the Government of Cuba has detained over 70 human rights activists and independent journalists, in the most sweeping clampdown on the island’s dissident community in since the mid-1990s.
U.S Congressman Jeff Flake (R-AZ), a leading actor in the House Cuba Working Group, a bipartisan fifty-member coalition that supports easing U.S. sanctions against Cuba, introduced a resolution before the Congress on March 26, 2003, calling for the Cuban government to release all detainees and to respect internationally recognized human rights standards. The Flake resolution is available at: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c108:H.RES.164:
According to the New York Times, “Cuban authorities said those arrested were traitors organized and paid by the United States, specifically by James Cason, the chief American diplomat in Havana. Mr. Cason has held numerous high-profile meetings with dissidents, and has made some strongly critical statements against the government,” (March 22, 2003).
But Cuba’s actions have sparked outcry from human rights organizations, independent journalists and high-profile international figures. U.S. president George Bush and former president Jimmy Carter have each issued separate statements opposing the detentions. Former president Carter said in his statement, “I call on the Cuban government to respect those rights and to refrain from detaining or harassing citizens who are expressing their views peacefully.” Amnesty International issued an “Action Alert”, and other international bodies have denounced Cuba’s actions, including the Swedish Parliament and at the United Nations, where Peru introduced a resolution critical of Cuba at a human rights meeting.
For ongoing coverage of developments relating to the detention of dissidents, see news articles from around the country and the world posted at Cubanet, updated daily at [url=http://www.cubanet.org/cubanews.html]http://www.cubanet.org/cubanews.html[/url]
WORKING GROUP ON CUBA ANNOUNCED IN U.S. SENATE
In a letter dated March 21, 2003, to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) and Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), ten U.S. Senators announced the formation of the bipartisan “Senate Working Group on Cuba.” The letter said the working group would “examine U.S. policies toward Cuba, including trade and travel restrictions,” citing Americans’ right to travel and Cuba’s potential as a U.S. export market.
With the formation of the Senate Working Group on Cuba, both chambers of the U.S. Congress now have Cuba working groups committed to a new approach on U.S. policy toward Cuba. In the House of Representatives, the bipartisan, fifty-member Cuba Working Group was formed in April 2002. That group produced a “Review of U.S. Policy Toward Cuba,” and announced a nine-point legislative agenda. For more information on the House Cuba Working Group, including its membership and policy review, please visit http://www.cubafoundation.org/congress.html
The ten members of the Senate Working Group on Cuba are: 5 DEMOCRATS: Max Baucus (MT); Byron Dorgan (ND); Maria Cantwell (WA); Blanche Lincoln (AR); Jeff Bingaman (NM); 5 REPUBLICANS: Michael Enzi (WY); Chuck Hagel (NE); Norm Coleman (MN); Jim Talent (MO); Pat Roberts (KS).
OFAC PUBLISHES NEW REGULATIONS ON CUBA
On Monday, March 24, 2003, the U.S. Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has published new regulations impacting Cuban travel. OFAC’s program brochure on Cuba and industry overviews for the financial community and exporters & importers have been updated accordingly.
The new regulations may be viewed on the OFAC website at: