House bill aims to lift U.S. embargo with Cuba

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) introduced a bill that would lift the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba.

Paul's bill comes days after the House approved an amendment to a Treasury appropriations bill that would allow unrestricted travel to Cuba. The Treasury bill is headed for a vote in the Senate.

Paul said it was time to end the U.S. trade sanctions against Cuba.

"I oppose economic sanctions for two very simple reasons," said Paul, a member of the House Banking and Financial Services Committee, as he introduced the bill (H.R. 2662).

"First, they don't work as effectively as foreign policy. Second, sanctions simply hurt American industries, particularly agriculture. Every market we close to our nation's farmers is a market exploited by foreign farmers."

Paul said the legislature in his state had adopted a resolution calling for the end to economic sanctions against Cuba. The legislature stressed that Cuba could purchase agricultural and high-tech products from Texas.

"I only wish Congress understood the simple wisdom expressed [by the Texas Legislature] so that we could end the harmful and ineffective trade sanctions that serve no national purpose," Paul said.

The question of normalizing trade and travel to Cuba has proven to be a contentious issue on Capitol Hill.

Last year, the House passed a provision that would have opened travel to Cuba, but it was later defeated in the Senate.

In January, Sen. Byron Dorgan, (D-N.D.), a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, introduced a bill (S. 171) that would allow tourist travel to Cuba and ease other trade sanctions.

A month later, the U.S.-Cuba Trade Act of 2001, which would normalize U.S. relations with Cuba, was introduced separately in the Senate and the House. There has been no action on either of those bills.

Opponents, who include Cuban exiles, argue tourism would pour money into Cuba and prop up President Fidel Castro's communist regime.

But Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a member of the House immigration and claims subcommittee, disagrees.

Flake sponsored the Treasury bill (H.R. 2590) amendment approved by the House.

"By voting to end the travel ban to Cuba, we have voted to more openly expose the mess Castro has made of Cuba," Flake said.

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