House Republican leaders agreed this week to allow the sale of U.S.-grown food and medicines to Cuba. But the proposal is NOT being praised by opponents of the four decade U.S. blockade on the island nation.
Under the language, U.S. producers can sell food and drugs to Cuba, as well as Iran, Libya, North Korea and Sudan. It is set to be effective beginning this fall.
At the insistence of Cuban American lawmakers, U.S. farmers and drug manufacturers cannot use U.S. government or private bank credit to finance such sales. And U.S. banks will be forbidden from processing transactions.
Cuba would continue to be prohibited from bartering with U.S. companies.
The agreement was forged by a bargaining team representing House GOP leaders and Cuban American House members. The proposal is largely the result of farm state lawmakers who have fought for three years to open up new markets in Cuba. It also has significant backing of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
As part of the proposal, current U.S. rules on travel by Americans to Cuba would be written into law, making it harder to change them. The legislation would also deny access to the U.S. market for exports from Cuba.
The deal is set to be slipped into a conference committee proceeding that would not allow for any debate. The proposal could be put to a vote this week in both houses of Congress and sent to the White House. Backers said they expected President Clinton to sign it.
- Wayne Smith, former chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, Cuba. He is currently a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy in Washington, DC.