TIME TO RETHINK US SANCTONS ON CUBA: TOP REPUBLICAN SENATOR

COMMENTARY ARCHIVES, 23 Feb 2009

Agence France-Presse

The time is right for reevaluating US sanctions on Cuba, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says in a new report, calling for allowing Cuba to buy US goods on credit, US media reported Sunday [Feb. 22].

    Republican Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana’s opinions are attached to a report due to be released Monday that could add fuel to momentum toward change in almost five decades of US policy seeking to isolate Cuba, the Americas’ only communist country.

    The United States and Cuba do not have full diplomatic relations. And Washington has had a full economic embargo on Havana since 1962.

    Former US president George W. Bush in recent years however allowed Cuba to purchase US food, as long as it was purchased in cash. US food sales to Cuba have surged, but US farm producers would sell much more if Cuba could get credit for its purchases.

    The report due out Monday stops short of recommending an end to the US embargo, The Washington Post reported.

    Lugar supports "lifting Bush administration restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba, reinstituting formal bilateral cooperation on drug interdiction and migration, and allowing Cuba to buy US agricultural products on credit," the Post said.

    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has promised a "review" of Cuba policy without providing details.

    US President Barack Obama has said he would speak with all foreign leaders in sharp contrast to successive US administrations which have sought to isolate Havana.

    But he has offered few details on how far he might be willing to go in reaching out to Cuba.

    During his campaign for the presidency, Obama said the Cuba embargo had not helped bring democracy to the island, led by President Raul Castro, 77.

    But so far Obama has said only that he would end some sanctions on Cuban-Americans traveling to the island, and eliminate limits on their remittances to relatives in Cuba.

    Lawmakers in the US House of Representatives earlier this month introduced a bill to permit US citizens unrestricted travel to Cuba.

    The "Freedom To Travel to Cuba Act," which would overturn the 46-year-old US policy strictly limiting travel to the Caribbean island, will be subject to debate after being referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs.

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