For some years, the major Cuba policy issue has been the effort to lift certain restrictions on the sale of food, medicine, and medical equipment to Cuba. Last year, an amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations bill, introduced by farm state Senators Ashcroft (R-MO) and Hagel (R-NE), intended to eliminate unilateral sanctions on the sale of food and medicine worldwide, came close to being enacted but was finally thwarted. The Dodd-Warner bill in the Senate and Serrano-Leach bill in the House, each with many co-sponsors, have yet to come to a vote.
At this moment, there is no new Cuba-specific bill before either house, although indications are that Sen. Ashcroft will seek an appropriate vehicle to re-introduce his amendment. The Dodd-Warner and Serrano-Leach bills are technically still before their respective Houses. There are likely to be bills in both Houses to lift present restrictions on U.S. citizen travel to Cuba, offered by Sen. Leahy and others in the Senate, and Rep. Sanford and others in the House.
The Conference has strongly supported these efforts in the Congress which are designed to gradually chip away at the economic embargo. Last September, Archbishop McCarrick wrote to the Congress urging adoption of language that would prevent imposition of agricultural and medical sanctions and permit the sale of food and medicines to Cuba. He added:
- Neither this bill nor any other measure before the Congress will automatically hasten the return of democracy and respect for human rights in Cuba. However, by acknowledging the suffering that many in Cuba today are experiencing and offering to reverse, at least in principle, certain measures that have contributed to their suffering, we can send an important and needed signal that we wish no ill to the Cuban people.
- The Catholic Bishops of Cuba, as well as those of the United States, are persuaded that the principal effects of the U.S. embargo, apart from providing the Cuban government with an excuse for every failure of its economy, are to deprive the neediest people of essential foods and medicines.
More Information: Tom Quigley, 202-541-3184 (ph), 202-541-3339 (fax); www.usccb.org/sdwp/international