Corker sees no lifting of Cuba embargo under Obama
Chief Washington Correspondent
February 24, 2016
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker said Wednesday
that there is political momentum in Congress for lifting the U.S.
embargo on Cuba but that any action would not come while President
Barack Obama was still in office.
“It’s not going to happen this year,” the Tennessee Republican told
reporters at a breakfast organized by the Christian Science Monitor.
“It’s something that could happen as we move into a new president.”
Corker underlined that there are “still tremendous human rights abuses
that take place in Cuba” and that these make it impossible for many
lawmakers to move forward with lifting the embargo. Still, he said, “If
Cuba were to evolve its behavior” on that front, then “it’s possible”
Congress could act.
Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro shocked the world in December 2014
by disclosing that they had held secret negotiations and were prepared
to usher in a new era of U.S.-Cuba relations, starting with the
resumption of full diplomatic ties. Embassies reopened in Havana and
Washington, the United States removed Cuba from its list of state
sponsors of terrorism, and the two sides have taken steps to increase
travel and business opportunities.
Obama has brought about many changes using his executive powers, but he
needs Congress to roll back the centerpiece of America’s Cold War-era
pressure on Cuba — the punishing trade embargo in place since 1960.
White House officials say they think it would be possible to cobble
together a coalition of Democrats and Republicans who either lean
libertarian or face pressure from business leaders in their districts or
home states to ease access to Cuba’s markets. Republican congressional
aides have all but ruled out taking legislative action on the proposal
Obama, who clearly sees improved relations as a legacy-defining issue,
recently announced that he would travel to Cuba in late March, becoming
the first sitting U.S. president to go there in roughly 80 years. At the
same time, it’s not clear how much political capital the president is
prepared to spend on pressuring Congress to lift the embargo, especially
as he gets set to face substantial opposition in the Senate to
confirming a new Supreme Court justice.
Corker, who disclosed that he recently had dinner with a Republican
senator who favors lifting the embargo and an investor eyeing expanded
business opportunities in Cuba, said he sees U.S.-Cuba relations
“gradually moving along this year.”
“It seems to me that this year is going to be a year when those things
take hold,” he said, referring to expanded air travel and other
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