Contrary to the usual view that policy changes are not likely during election years, Cuba policy is moving this year. In both Houses, there have been important measures to lift certain restrictions on the sale of food and medicine.An amendment by Rep. Nethercutt (R-WA) to the Agricultural Appropriations bill that would eliminate most unilateral sanctions on the sale of food and medicine worldwide, was first weakened in a compromise agreement with the House leadership, and then struck from the bill on procedural grounds. Attempts to attach it as an amendment to the Military Construction Appropriations bill, now in conference, failed as several Senators, including Dodd (D-CT) and Dorgan (D-ND), threatened to filibuster the bill when it comes to the floor if the weakened Nethercutt language was attached.
Senator Dorgan has now attached to the Senate Agriculture Appropriations bill the earlier sanctions language of Senators Ashcroft (R-MO) and Hagel (R-NE), parallel to the original Nethercutt language, which we hope can be passed without being struck, weakened or replaced with the Nethercutt compromise.
The Bishops' Conference has strongly supported these efforts to gradually chip away at the economic embargo.
- During his 1998 visit to Cuba, the Holy Father appealed to the world community to open up to Cuba as he called on Cuba to open up to the world. With the Catholic Bishops of Cuba, we are clear about the need for positive change in Cuba just as we 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.
- The bills currently before the Congress will not automatically hasten the return of democracy and respect for human rights in Cuba nor will they end all shortages of food and medicine 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 and that we have grave moral and practical concerns about the Cuba embargo as a whole.
Please contact your senators, urging them to support the original Dorgan sanctions language on the Agriculture Appropriations bill, which represents the Ashcroft-Helms compromise, and not weaken it with the Nethercutt compromise language.
More Information: Tom Quigley, 202-541-3184 (ph), 202-541-3339 (fax)