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Posted July 02, 2005 by mattlawrence in US Embargo

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The U.S. House, reversing a years-old trend, dealt a heavy blow to supporters of easing sanctions on Cuba by rejecting three proposals.

U.S. CONGRESS

BY PABLO BACHELET

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WASHINGTON - Reversing years of congressional votes that showed supporters of easing U.S. sanctions on Cuba gaining strength, the House on Thursday rejected three such proposals and gave a categorical win to supporters of a tough line on Havana.

An amendment seeking to overturn limits on Cuban-Americans’ family travel to Cuba was defeated 211-208—the first time such an initiative was beaten back in a congressional vote. A similar amendment, also submitted by Florida Democrat Jim Davis, was approved last year on a 225-174 vote.

Both opponents and supporters of the sanctions credited the turnaround on a determined lobbying drive by Cuban-American lawmakers and the entreaties made by dissidents in the communist-ruled island such as Martha Beatriz Roque, who recently addressed the Congress members on a phone link from Havana.

Two other amendments—all three were part of a spending bill for the treasury, housing and transportation departments—were shot down by lopsided margins.

A proposal to ease restrictions on U.S. student travel to Cuba, presented by Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., was defeated 233-187. Last year it was so heavily backed that it passed by a simple voice vote.

And an amendment that would have completely lifted the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba, submitted by Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., was rejected on a 250-169 vote.

Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake, a Republican and always one of the strongest critics of the U.S. restrictions on travel to Cuba, withdrew several amendments after the defeat of the Davis initiative.

Miami Republicans Lincoln and Mario Daz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen hailed the votes as ‘‘historic’’ in a joint statement.

‘‘The solid defeat of these amendments sends a definitive message of support for the president’s Cuba policy,’’ Ros-Lehtinen said.

EMBARGO PROTECTED

Since 2001, a group of moderate and farm-state Republicans have annually joined with Democrats to pass a series of amendments to spending bills that tried to chip away at the embargo, and especially the travel restrictions. Even after Fidel Castro’s security agents arrested and jailed 75 dissidents in 2003, an amendment to lift the travel restrictions passed by a comfortable 30-vote margin.

The amendments were never implemented because congressional negotiators, operating under a veto threat by the White House, would strip them out of the final bill. But each year it seemed that the next would see a significant weakening of the sanctions.

But this year Cuban-American groups that support the sanctions say they have recovered some of the political weight the community had when Jorge Mas Canosa ran the Cuban American National Foundation. Some say they let down their guard with President Bush in the White House and his brother Jeb in the governor’s mansion.

‘‘The void that occurred with the death of Jorge Mas Canosa has slowly and steadily started to be filled again,’’ said Ignacio Snchez, a member of the Cuban Liberty Council. Many of its members broke off from CANF to espouse a tougher line on Castro.

In March, Cuban American lawmakers and their congressional allies arranged for three Cuban dissidents—Martha Beatriz Roque, Rene Gomez and Felix Bonne—to endorse Bush’s restrictions in a phone-link testimony before a House panel.

Thursday’s votes came atop other recent setbacks by those who favor relaxing U.S. restrictions. An amendment to ease humanitarian travel lost in a procedural vote in the Senate Wednesday night. Last month, a Flake initiative to lift a ban on sending personal hygiene items such as toilet paper and toothpaste to Cuba was also defeated in the House.

U.S. EXPORTS

And on Thursday, Bush threatened to veto a provision in the spending bill that would reverse recently enacted regulations making it more difficult for U.S. farmers to be paid by Cuba for U.S. exports. ‘‘The administration is strongly opposed to any efforts to weaken these regulations, and if the final version of the bill contained such a provision, the President would veto the bill,’’ the White House said in a statement.

Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, a Missouri Republican who has been leading the charge to overturn the restrictions, said she would ``keep plugging forward and see what happens.’‘

John Kavulich, a senior policy advisor with U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, which tracks economic trends in Cuba, said the Castro government has been purchasing less U.S. foodstuff since the new restrictions were adopted, but only to put political pressure on U.S. lawmakers who want their farmers back home to benefit from trade with Havana.

‘‘The Cuban government has a genetic need to be a part of the U.S. political discourse,’’ Kavulich said.

  1. Follow up post #1 added on July 02, 2005 by YoungCuban with 409 total posts

    Gotta love them suits in Washington.

    Try this on for size, allow “We The People” to decide on the travel ban issue through a vote,after all it is suppose to be our constitutional right to travel,no?


  2. Follow up post #2 added on July 02, 2005 by Medieval with 8 total posts

    YoungCuban…I agree, but that is why we have “elected representatives”.


  3. Follow up post #3 added on July 03, 2005 by YoungCuban with 409 total posts

    You mean ” paid off representatives” lol


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