Advocates of lifting Cuba sanctions see slim odds
By Missy Ryan
Jun 14, 2007
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Even the staunchest congressional supporters of
lifting U.S. sanctions against Cuba are not optimistic any changes will
occur while policy toward Havana is tied up in U.S. electoral politics.
"The whole concept that for 45 years we believe that an embargo on the
government of Cuba will cause people to … overthrow (Fidel) Castro …
just defies intelligence," Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel, House Ways
and Means Committee chairman, told an event on Thursday hosted by the
libertarian Cato Institute.
Rangel of New York and Arizona Republican Jeff Flake, who are among
lawmakers who have sponsored plans to relax the decades-old embargo
against the communist-ruled island, called the trade, travel and
political restrictions "hypocritical" and "bordering on sophomoric."
"Why is our government telling us where we can and can't go?" Flake
asked. He wants to see an end to the entire embargo — but would settle
for incremental measures in the meantime.
The lawmakers acknowledged securing any real reform would be difficult.
"We're sending a message to our government" on behalf of those who want
change, said Rangel, who chalked the sanctions up to simple political
With a razor-thin divide between Republican and Democratic support in
swing states, politicians see votes from the anti-Castro Cuban-American
stronghold in Florida as pivotal, he said.
The Rangel-Flake bill, which would facilitate travel to Cuba for U.S.
tourists, students and missionaries, comes amid uncertainty about Cuba's
future. Cuban leader Fidel Castro is recovering after emergency bowel
surgery in July that forced him to hand over power to his brother Raul.
Since 2001, U.S. businesses have been able to send food and medicine to
Cuba. Exports of U.S. poultry, soy, rice and other food have since
totaled $1.55 billion.
The U.S. agriculture sector has been lobbying for an end to restrictions
such as a rule that Cuba pay for food shipments before they leave U.S.