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US congress seeks to strengthen embargo against Cuba

WASHINGTON, USA (ACN) -- The US House of Representatives was the scene of a new maneuver by the anti-Cuban lobby that managed to include sanctions against the Caribbean nation in the 2017 House Financial Services and General Government Bill.

Some representatives openly opposed to the rapprochement between Havana and Washington continued their anti-Cuba campaign after managing to obtain the removal last week of amendments that would allow US citizens to travel freely to Cuba and make agricultural trade viable without current conditions of payment in cash and in advance.

In the text that appeared in the House of Representatives, far from eliminating the economic, commercial and financial sanctions against Cuba, the position towards Cuba on issues such as the ban on travel to Cuba for certain educational exchanges in the called people-to-people exchanges is intensified.

Among the amendments adopted as part of the 2017 House Financial Services and General Government Bill is the banning of imports related to nationalizations made by the Cuban government.

The ban on financial transactions involving Cuban military, as well as funds to approve the licensing of trademarks, trade names or names that have been confiscated by the Cuban government without the express consent of the United States, are also among the purposes of anti-Cuban lobby in Washington.

Despite the inclusion of these amendments against Cuba, the result of pressure from Congresspersons Mario Diaz-Balart, a member of the Appropriations Committee; Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo, there is still a long way for the sanctions to become law.

As part of a debate on its own bill of financial services, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved an amendment presented by Democrat senators Patrick Leahy and Jerry Moran that seeks to allow US farmers to increase private funding for the export of agricultural products to Cuba.

Another one, presented by the senators and approved by voice vote, proposes to lift the ban on travel to the island.

In reviewing the texts that are formulated in the House of Representatives and the Senate on the 2017 House Financial Services and General Government Bill, differences in the content is acknowledged, so they should be submitted to the Congressional Conference Committee, where Democrats and Republicans will reconcile a final text that then must be voted in both chambers.

The fact that the Senate text has amendments that allow travel by US citizens to Cuba and restrictions are lifted in exports of agricultural products to Cuba, while the House measures intensify the embargo in those areas, will no doubt be used by both parties as reasons for a political fight over the budget legislation.

Diaz-Balart told US media that "there is bipartisan support in the House to strengthen the sanctions and reject the pacifying policy" as evidenced by the adoption of the legislative proposal that "contains multiple clauses to strengthen sanctions."

However, the congressional newspaper The Hill predicted that President Barack Obama would veto the law – if approved with its current text by Congress – not because of travel to Cuba but because several pieces of the bill put a check to important government initiatives.

Cuba is the only country in the world to which US citizens are prohibited to travel as tourists, so only a limited number of them are authorized to travel to the island, under certain licenses.

Cuban authorities have said that the normalization of relations between the two countries will go through the lifting of the economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba, which now the House of Representatives intends to intensify, and the return of the territory occupied by the US in Guantanamo, among other topics.

Courtesy: Caribbean News Now

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