Wednesday, August 02, 2006

News from Cuba puts new focus on embargo

Chicago Sun-Times

August 2, 2006


WASHINGTON -- Ailing Cuban President Fidel Castro's abrupt departure from power has renewed the debate about the effectiveness of a U.S. embargo that prohibits most American travel to Cuba and prevents most U.S. companies from doing business there.

Analysts in the United States say easing the embargo now would send a positive signal to the Cuban people as well as help U.S. businesses that have long sought an opening to the Cuban market.

''It's only natural for the Cuban people to seek an improved financial situation and in the nature of things, that's going to include the United States,'' said Robert Muse, a Washington-based attorney who is involved in Cuba issues.

But undoing the embargo would take an act of Congress and the support of the White House, which has blocked attempts to ease travel and trade restrictions in the past.

An administration report issued last month said sanctions could be lifted only if Cuba took steps toward holding free elections.

Oil companies see chance

The U.S. trade embargo was imposed in stages in the early 1960s to put economic pressure on Castro and weaken his regime.

American oil companies have joined in the fight to ease the embargo because China and other countries are exploring for oil off the Cuban coast.

Although the embargo's effectiveness has been debated for years, its main supporters on Capitol Hill, mainly Cuban-American lawmakers, pressed Tuesday to keep sanctions in place until Cuba moves toward democracy. ''We should do nothing until steps are taken to bring sovereignty to the Cuban people,'' said Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.).

Gannett News Service

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