Eight prominent Republican leaders in defense, trade, and international policy say U.S. policy toward Cuba would be improved by ending the embargo on food and medicine sales, lifting all restrictions on travel by American citizens, and sunsetting the 1996 Helms-Burton law.
The leaders’s statement, released today by the Lexington Institute, cites the changed post-Cold War political environment, the ineffectiveness of recent laws that have tightened U.S. trade sanctions, and the opportunity to adopt new policies to allow “a flow of people, commerce, and ideas that would increase American influence” in Cuba.
The sunsetting of Helms-Burton, the statement says, would give “the new President and new Congress an unfettered opportunity to determine how best to approach the Cuba issue.”
The Lexington Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy research organization that conducts, among its many programs, original research on the Cuban economy and analysis of U.S. policy toward Cuba.
The statement follows:
Statement on U.S. policy toward Cuba
A decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall, we believe it is time to consider changes in American policy toward Cuba.
During the Cold War, the policy of isolating Cuba was a necessary response to Soviet and Cuban actions that threatened security and democracy in our hemisphere.
Today, with the Soviet bloc gone and Cuban military capabilities vastly reduced, it is possible to use a different mix of policy measures to serve important American interests such as promoting human rights, assisting the Cuban people, and building contacts with the generation that will govern Cuba in the new century.
The U.S. trade embargo has been tightened twice in the past decade under the assumption that Cuba’s economic crisis might bring political change. Yet Cuba’s economy has survived the loss of the Soviet subsidy. In the meantime, U.S. policies designed to isolate Cuba have blocked the flow of people, commerce, and ideas that would increase American influence.
Therefore, we urge the following steps.
Allow sales of food and medicine to Cuba. Congress should complete the action the Senate initiated last year by eliminating restrictions on these sales, a step that the Cuban people, their religious leaders, and the dissident community will welcome. Humanitarian trade should not be used for political leverage.
End all travel restrictions. Americans should not be required to obtain licenses from the federal government to travel to Cuba. Our nation’s influence derives not only from our ideas and our government, but from our people – this is why President Reagan never banned or restricted American citizens’ travel to the Soviet Union, even during periods of gross Soviet misconduct.
Sunset Helms-Burton. The Helms-Burton law has deterred new investment in Cuba and penalized some who invest there now. However, it has not brought political change, it has not resolved property claims, it creates costly disputes with major trading partners, and it limits the President’s prerogatives. Congress should set the stage for a new Cuba debate by sunsetting Helms-Burton thereby giving the new President and new Congress an unfettered opportunity to determine how best to approach the Cuba issue. Bearing in mind the call of Pope John Paul II for the world to “open the doors to Cuba,” this will also be an opportunity for Americans to debate the kinds of trade and contacts that can serve both nations’ long-term interests.
Hon. John Block, former Secretary of Agriculture (Reagan Administration)
Hon. Frank Carlucci, former Secretary of Defense and National Security Advisor (Reagan Administration)
Hon. William P. Clark, former National Security Advisor (Reagan Administration)
Hon. Carla Hills, former Special Trade Representative (Bush Administration)
Hon. George Ryan, Governor, State of Illinois
Hon. John Whitehead, former Deputy Secretary of State (Reagan Administration)
Hon. Clayton Yeutter, former Special Trade Representative (Reagan Administration), Secretary of Agriculture and Chairman of the Republican National Committee (Bush Administration)
Hon. Jim Courter, Chairman, Lexington Institute, former Member of the House
Armed Services Committee (1979-1993), and former Chairman, Defense Base Closing and Realignment Commission (Bush Administration)
PHILIP PETERS, a State Department official during the Reagan and Bush administrations, is vice president of the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Va.
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