Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Small steps on Cuba policy

Congress has sent a bill to the President that liberalizes Cuba policy for the first time since 2000.

A catch-all spending bill to fund U.S. government operations through the end of the fiscal year (until October 1) contains three provisions (discussed earlier here) that make modest changes to Cuba policy.

The Herald has posted a Treasury Department letter to Senator Menendez regarding a provision that eases regulations governing travel to Cuba to promote agricultural and medical sales. The letter explains that instead of writing to ask for permission and waiting for the government to send a license allowing the travel, these travelers will have to inform the government in advance and report again afterward.

A second Treasury letter addresses the “cash in advance” issue regarding agricultural sales. At issue is whether U.S. exporters should be required to receive payment from Cuba before their goods are delivered in Cuban ports (pre-Bush regulations), or before their goods leave U.S. ports (Bush regulations). The bill addresses this issue, but only symbolically, because it suspends enforcement of the Bush regulations instead of repealing them outright.

The letter also notes that Cuba policy is under review in the Obama Administration.

Both letters responded to concerns from these and other pro-embargo legislators. Senator Menendez had expressed concern that the legislation would allow credit to be extended to Cuba, but that was never at issue. Senator Martinez told reporters yesterday that Treasury had agreed to issue new regulations governing agricultural sales to Cuba, but the text of the letter shows his statement to be inaccurate.

The third provision, suspending enforcement of the Bush Administration’s once-every-three-years rule for Cuban American family visits, apparently drew no opposition.

These are modest provisions, and two of three are really symbolic. I continue to believe that the truly significant actions and debates will occur later this year. Still, in the absence of Bush veto threats, Congress has now acted on Cuba policy, and when the bill is signed, it will mark a change in direction.

AFP coverage here.

[This rewrites a post from 2:30 this afternoon.]


leftside said...

Senator Menendez had expressed concern that the legislation would allow credit to be extended to Cuba, but that was never at issue.

It most certainly was at issue when the majority of US Senators voted it into the Bill. This back-handed use of Executive power should not go unchallenged. I might export some food and medicine on credit just to see what happens...

The clear intent of Section 622 of the Omnibus Bill is to reverse Bush's policy of "cash in advance." It directs Treasury to use NO RESOURCES to administer the policy. This is the way many things are legislated into oblivion. The Bush law still exists, but if you break it, the clear intent is still that Treasury can't spend a dime to go after you. The Geinther letter does not change that. All it seems to say is that the act of offering credit to Cuba for food or medicine remains illegal. But it would also now be illegal for Treasury to challenge it. A classic Cuba mind-f*ck.

Do Menendez and Martinez have absolutely no shame holding up the entire Government and burdening an already understaffed Treasury Dept. over this nonsense?

Gabriel said...

I haven't been able to visit my aunt and uncle - or my over a dozen cousins on the island since Bush altered the regulations.

Tio and tia - here I come!!!!

Anonymous said...

why not, pinhead? it's been more than three years since the new regs were established.

Anonymous said...

My papi in Habana is happy, he can see his grandkids now.
We have god given right to see papi whenever, but once a year is better than the anti-family 3 per year.

we are waiting/praying (as is most of regular cubans who have loved ones in usa) for OB to make it unrestricted for family travel, like he promised.

theCardinal said...

your papi can kiss my behind...how many Mexican families can't reunite? How many Haitians? What makes you so special. I'm just glad that this whole thing is over so you all can stop being such whiny babies. What I want action on is the cuban adjustment act...there is zero reason for Cubans to be treated any different than any other immigrant to the US. On top of that, why do they get a disproportionate number of permits to live here? Wet foot/dry foot? How about no foot. stand in line like everyone else. Haitians have it worse than you - they just don't have 5 congressmen and two senators to make a whole lot of noise.

Gabriel said...

Anonymous March 11, 2009 11:51 AM:

Because under Bush, the human genome was altered making aunts and uncles non relatives.

And might I ask why you referred to me as a pinhead?

Talk about a total boob. Go play somewhere else.