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Colombia Si, Castro No

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Colombia Si, Castro No

Mensaje por LoriG el Miér Mar 31, 2010 7:40 pm

Colombia Si, Castro No

Roger Noriega, 03.31.10, 02:00 PM EDT


The U.S. shouldn't ease exports to Cuba when it can strike more lucrative trade deals with freer nations.

As farm-state Congressmen are keeping themselves busy offering trade benefits to Fidel Castro, last week Canada's Parliament announced agreement on an accord with Colombia that could cost American farmers $1.7 billion in exports. Our farmers have a right to ask why some in Washington want to waste precious days on the legislative calendar to hand unilateral concessions to Cuba in the midst of brutal crackdown there while refusing to take the time to push trade accords with three of our staunchest allies.
The Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act (H.R. 4645), introduced last month, would authorize tourism and ease exports to Cuba. By allowing leisure travel to Cuba without requiring even a hint of liberalization from the regime in Havana, this bill would deliver a diplomatic victory and a windfall of tourist dollars to the Cuban military that runs much of the island's segregated hotel industry.

The fact is millions of non-American tourists have visited Cuba for decades. If anything, the regime has grown more repressive--strengthening its police state with the precious hard currency raised from tourists. For many years, hundreds of thousands of Americans have gone to Cuba under a dozen different categories of lawful travel. A year ago, President Obama loosened some limits on family travel, but he wisely refused to allow tourism or make further concessions until he saw some sign that the Cuban regime would ease up on its own people.
In the last few weeks, our president heard Havana's answer, as dozens of women staging a peaceful protest in the capital city were dragged, punched, kicked and detained by Cuban state security. Prisoners of conscience are staging hunger strikes in the faint hope that the world will stop appeasing the regime that torments them. Orlando Zapata Tamayo died five weeks ago, and 48-year-old journalist and psychologist Guillermo Fariñas is clinging to life right now.
"[I]nstead of embracing an opportunity to enter a new era, Cuban authorities continue to respond to the aspirations of the Cuban people with a clenched fist," President Obama responded. Although the president seems more convinced than ever that we must place strict preconditions on any changes in U.S. policy, H.R. 4645 would take that discretion and diplomatic leverage out of his hands.

A second part of this legislation would allow Cuba to obtain routine financing to purchase agriculture goods from the United States. I helped put in place a requirement that Cuba--one of the world's greatest debtors and credit risks--pay cash for our farm goods. Foreign diplomats still complain to me that our people are getting cash, while theirs are getting stiffed. I cannot see how we could improve on those terms. And it will not be long before Castro demands that we offer subsidies or credits to his bankrupt regime.
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