Current Status of Efforts To End U.S. Embargo of Cuba

Many prior posts have discussed this blogger’s support for ending the U.S. embargo of Cuba. Unfortunately it looks increasingly unlikely that will happen in the last year of President Obama’s term in office.

U.S. Congressional Efforts

A 2/26/16 search of the U.S. Library of Congress THOMAS website regarding legislation in Congress reveals that no action whatsoever has been taken in this Session of Congress on two Senate bills to end the embargo (S.491 by Senator Amy Klobuchar (Dem., MN) and S.1543 by Senator Jerry Moran (Rep., KS)) and on four similar bills in the House (H.R.274 by Rep. Bobby Rush (Dem., IL), H.R.403 by Rep. Charles Rangel (Dem., NY), H.R.735 by Rep. Jose Serano (Dem., NY) and H.R.3238 by Rep. Cal Emmer (Rep., MN)).

Most significantly Senator Bob Corker (Rep., TN), the Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said on February 24, 2016, that ending the embargo was “not going to happen this year but I think it’s something that could happen as we move into a new president(‘s administration).” [1]

Corker added, “If Cuba were to evolve its behavior and people were able to see results from what’s happening with the executive order changes that are occurring, then I think it’s possible. To me it appears that things are gradually moving along. We have air flights that are now going in, and it seems to me that this is going to be a year where those things take hold.” However, he said, “Obviously there’s still tremendous human rights abuses that are taking place in Cuba.”

In the meantime, Minnesota Representative Tom Emmer is continuing his efforts to garner public support for ending the embargo and hopes this year for a vote on such a bill, presumably the one he has authored. He promotes this effort to Midwestern farmers at agricultural conferences and dispatching his senior staffers to speak at D.C. forums in favor of the bill.[2] 

After his second trip to Cuba earlier this month, Emmer went to Miami, Florida and reported that Cuban-Americans in Miami were not unanimously supporting the embargo. “Business owners down here recognize it’s a matter of when and not if [the embargo will end].”

An ally for Emmer’s effort is Mike Fernandez, a Cuban-American, Floridian and Republican health care executive who is disappointed in many Republican politicians who continue to hold out against lifting the embargo. After a 2000 trip to Cuba, Fernandez changed his opinion on the embargo. He came to realize “that the greatest ally that the Cuban government had was the embargo because it was a way of explaining to the people why nothing worked in Cuba. . . . It became a great cover of the great inefficiencies of that government.” As a result, after his trip, Fernandez helped launch a number of small-business incubators in Cuba, cooperating with the Catholic Church and some universities, to train people to start small businesses.

Emmer’s fellow Minnesotan in the Senate, Amy Klobuchar, has authored a bill in that Chamber to end the embargo and continues to press for its adoption. Immediately after President Obama’s State of the Union Address on January 12, 2016, she said in a press release, “Passing my bipartisan bill to lift the embargo would benefit the people of both our countries by boosting U.S. exports and allowing Cubans greater access to American goods. I hope Congress heeds President Obama’s call and moves my critical legislation forward so that we can strengthen our U.S. economy and bring our relationship with Cuba into the 21st century.” [3]

Last month she also told an agricultural periodical that “there’s a lot of momentum [for ending the embargo].  If it happens at the end of this year or next year…my prediction is within the next two years we will lift that trade embargo.” Key for her is the benefits for  agriculture  from further normalized trade with Cuba. [4]

Obama Administration’s Efforts

Previous posts have discussed the efforts of the Administration to encourage Congress to pass legislation to end the embargo and its executive orders to loosen some aspects of the embargo that it asserts are permissible under existing legislation. Now we wait to see whether there will be additional executive orders to adopt further loosening the embargo, especially before the President goes to Cuba on March 21-22.

An additional objection to the embargo being pressed by Cuba is U.S. enforcement of the embargo by imposing fines for violations of the laws underlying that embargo. The Miami Herald reports that as of February 24, 2016, the U.S. Treasury Department had  initiated eight enforcement actions involving Cuba since the date of the announcement of rapprochement (December 17, 2014) with fines totaling $5,278,901, all involving  transactions predating that announcement. [5]

The Miami Herald also noted that on February 23, the Cuban government, before the eighth case was announced, said the fines totaled $2.84 billion. The huge difference in the two totals has not been explained.

Conclusion

All U.S. citizens who support the ending of the embargo need to keep pressing their U.S. Senators and Representatives to adopt one of the bills now before the two chambers to do just that.

==========================================================

[1] Reuters, Senator Corker: Congress Won’t End Cuba Embargo under Obama, N.Y. Times (Feb. 24, 2016); Hattem, Senate chairman: End of Cuba embargo ‘Possible,’ The HIll (Feb. 24, 2016).

[2] Sherry, Emmer lobbies U.S. Cuban community in effort to end embargo, StarTribune (Feb. 21, 2016). 

[3] Klobuchar Press Release: Following President Obama’s State of the Union Address, Klobuchar Calls on Congress To Pass Her Bipartisan Bill To Life Cuba Trade Embargo (Jan. 13, 2016) 

[4] Dorenkamp, Klobuchar leads bill to lift Cuban trade embargo, Brownfield Ag News for business (Jan. 22, 2016). 

[5] Whitefield, Despite new Cuba relationship, fines persist against firms accused of violating embargo, Miami Herald (Feb. 24, 2016). 

Published by

dwkcommentaries

As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

2 thoughts on “Current Status of Efforts To End U.S. Embargo of Cuba”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s