American Shipper

Louder calls made for reforming Cold War-era U.S.-Cuba policy

Louder calls made for reforming Cold War-era U.S.-Cuba policy

Capitol Hill lawmakers and policy thinkers are calling for an immediate overhaul of the U.S. trade and travel policy toward Cuba in light of the Caribbean country’s leader Fidel Castro announcing his resignation.

   “Our policy toward Cuba is a relic of the Cold War,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., in a telephone press conference Tuesday.

   McGovern called on the United States to quit its “irrational, unhealthy obsession with Fidel Castro.”

   The lawmaker further announced that 104 House members have signed a letter to be issued to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice this week calling for the Bush administration to review its policy toward Cuba. However, most policy analysts are skeptical that the Bush administration will act to change its long-held position.

   Lawrence Wilkerson, co-chairman of the U.S.-Cuba Policy Initiative and former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, said the Bush administration has generally turned a “tin ear” to matters of Cuba. “Our Cuba policy is a failure,” he told reporters.

   “The key right now is to do something to signal that our post-Fidel relationship will be different than what came before,” said Jake Colvin, director of USA*Engage, a Washington-based trade coalition opposed to U.S. unilateral sanctions. “There is a window of opportunity, and a new urgency, to signal changes in policies that would benefit American farmers, businesses and national security interests.

   “If we do not, the United States risks alienating another generation of Cubans pushing the Cuban government farther into the arms of countries like Venezuela and China,” he warned.

   Wilkerson said travel of U.S. citizens to Cuba should be open, referring to the current restrictions as unconstitutional, and called for portions of the trade embargo, especially those aspects focused on U.S. agricultural trade with Cuba, to be lifted. ' Chris Gillis