HAVANA TIMES — A group of Senate Democrats and Republicans introduced a bill today to end the trade embargo on Cuba, following the recent diplomatic thaw between Washington and Havana, reported dpa.
The bill titled “Freedom to export to Cuba” was submitted today by four Democratic senators (Amy Klobuchar, Debbie Stabenow, Patrick Leahy and Dick Durbin) and two Republicans (Mike Enzi and Jeff Flake).
“It is time to turn the page on our policy towards Cuba,” said Senator Klobuchar in a statement.
According to the senators who introduced the legislation, if this bill is passed by Congress it would “pave the way for new economic opportunities for US businesses and farmers boosting exports and allow Cubans to have greater access to US products.”
If Congress passes the bill, “key provisions of previous laws that prevent Americans from doing business in Cuba would be repealed, but not parts of the law that address issues of human rights or property claims against the Cuban government,” said the senators.
Klobuchar said that lifting the embargo “would provide new opportunities for American businesses, promote job creation and exports and help improve the quality of life of Cubans.”
Only Congress can approve the total lifting of the trade embargo on Cuba in place since 1961, and reinforced in 1996 by the Helms-Burton initiative.
It is still early to say whether the bill will be approved by Congress, but it is sure to cause a passionate debate in Washington. President Barack Obama is in favor of lifting the embargo, but many lawmakers oppose, especially those of Cuban origin.
Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, against any concession to the Castro brothers, recalled that “at each Congress, opponents try to lift the embargo, with a big hullabaloo.”
Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuban-American, recalled that US law is clear on the conditions for lifting the embargo: “free and fair elections in Cuba, respect for fundamental human rights, the release of all political prisoners and other requirements in the Helms-Burton Law.”
This senators bill comes nearly two months after Washington and Havana reached an agreement in December to normalize diplomatic relations, after half a century of rupture and ideological confrontation.
Two weeks ago, a group of eight Democratic senators and Republican senators introduced the “Freedom to travel to Cuba” bill to lift all restrictions on travel by US citizens to the island.
Several of the senators that introduced the bill today to remove the embargo are also behind the initiative to remove travel restrictions. Cuba is the only country in the world where US citizens are barred by their government from tourist travel.