The House of Representatives of the U.S. Congress was the scene of a new maneuver of the anti-Cuban lobby that managed to include sanctions against the Caribbean nation in the 2017 House Financial Services and General Government Bill.
The Congresspersons -openly opposed to the rapprochement between Havana and Washington- continued their anti-Cuban campaign after managing to obtain the removal last week of amendments that would allow U.S. 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 of the Capitol.
Despite the inclusion of these amendments against Cuba, the result of pressure from Congresspersons Mario Diaz-Balart -member of the Appropriations Committee-, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo, there is still a long way for 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 U.S. farmers to increase private funding for the export of agricultural products to Cuba.
Another one, presented by the senators themselves and approved by voice vote, proposes to lift the ban on travel to the island.
In reviewing the texts that are shaped in the House of Representatives and the Senate on the 2017 House Financial Services and General Government Bill, differences in letter are appreciated, so they should be submitted to Congressional Conference Committee where Democrats and Republicans will reconcile a final text that then must be voted in the plenary of both instances of the Legislature.
The fact tat the text of the senators has so far amendments that allow travel by U.S. citizens to Cuba and that restrictions are lifted in the area of exports of agricultural products to Cuba, and that of representatives measures to intensify the blockade in those areas, can be used by both parties as reasons for political fights around the budget law, taking into account many factors, including the interests of each party and the positions of the Executive regarding the topics covered.
Diaz-Balart told U.S. 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 this text put a check to important government initiatives.
Cuba is the only country in the world to which U.S. citizens are prohibited to travel as tourists, so only a limited number of them is 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 blockade against Cuba, which today the House of Representatives intends to intensify, and the return of the territory illegally occupied by the U.S. in Guantanamo, among other topics.