TRANSPORTATION, TREASURY, HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT, THE JUDICIARY, THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA AND INDEPENDENT AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2007 -- (House of Representatives - June 14, 2006)
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Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong opposition to the Moran amendment. Let us be clear: This amendment is not about agricultural sales to Cuba. This amendment seeks to prevent the implementation of safeguards that have been put in place to ensure that American farmers do indeed get paid.
Under current U.S. law, the sale of agricultural products to Cuba is authorized. There are no sanctions in place for such sales. The law only stipulates that these sales meet four simple conditions: payment of cash in advance, of payment prior to transfer of title, shipping and a licensing provision.
Again, these requirements were put in place to protect American producers, to protect American taxpayers, so that they will in fact get paid by the Cuban regime, and that these sales are in keeping with the U.S. foreign policy and commercial interests.
Given the Castro regime history, and you can see right there in Mr. Diaz-Balart's currency debt, and its history of insolvency, its poor credit rating, its debt levels, it is incumbent upon us in Congress to undertake necessary steps to protect Americans from getting cheated, from getting swindled, like so many others have by the Castro dictatorship.
Mr. Chairman, we have ample reasons to be concerned about the worthiness of the Castro regime. At $14 billion, Cuba's foreign debt reached an all-time high last year.
Cuba simply refuses to pay its debts. Now, we all know that the Cuban tyrant can afford it. Forbes Magazine recently listed him as among the top ten wealthiest rulers in the world. The U.S. must not allow its citizens to shoulder the burden of a corrupt foreign government, a deadbeat dictator.
Simply put, this amendment promotes lawlessness and the protection of Americans against the Cuban regime's antics. I join Mr. Diaz-Balart and so many others in hoping that we vote ``no'' on the Moran amendment.
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Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Chairman, I thank my good friend from New York (Mr. Rangel). I know that he called this the For-America amendment, but I think it is the Blame America First amendment, because it says that if there is misery in Cuba, and there surely is, that it is the fault of the American people because of our foreign policy tools that we have been using of sanctioning the government of the regime of Fidel Castro.
I agree with the gentleman that the embargo should be lifted. It is the embargo that Fidel Castro has on the Cuban people, an embargo on freedom and an embargo on expression and an embargo on freedom to worship. That is the embargo that we would like to see lifted.
But here we go again. How interesting that we have this debate on today, of all days. This is Che Guevara's birthday, and Che Guevara, like Castro, was a bloody assassin, even though we have young people wearing his T-shirts. They have no idea what that man stood for.
Like Che Guevara, Fidel Castro continues this bloody, tyrannical rule. Here we have an annual campaign to award an oppressive totalitarian state, a human rights violator, right here in our own hemisphere. If history has taught us nothing about the consequences of appeasing and awarding a brutal power hungry tyrant, we are again being asked to consider an amendment that in practice would lift all sanctions on the Cuban dictatorship as a reward for his good behavior.
In matter of fact, as the Cuban regime intensifies its crackdown on peaceful demonstration, people who are just for democracy, as it systematically harasses and seeks to intimidate our own U.S. Ambassador personnel in the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, as the regime increases its support to pariah states such as Iran and Syria, and the global jihadist organization, we should not, we cannot, we must not resolve that this is going to go unnoticed, that we will not be punishing Fidel Castro, that we will, in fact, be rewarding him for continuing to oppress his own people.
The misery that the Cuban people feel is Castro's own making. It is not the Blame America First crowd that wants you to believe that, but that is so.
There are three major conditions that must be in place before any sanctions are lifted on the Cuban regime. They are very simple. The liberation of political prisoners, the legalization of all political parties, and the holding of free, fair, multiparty, internationally recognized democratic elections.
This amendment suggests that demanding freedom, demanding democracy, demanding respect for human rights first is all too much to ask. I say it is not. The human rights condition in Cuba continues to deteriorate. Cuba's tyrannical rule punishes even harder those who seek to exercise their fundamental freedoms of expression, of assembly, of free association. As the steadily increasing number of Cuban political prisoners demonstrates, conditions are deplorable and the Cuban people are oppressed by this ruthless dictator.
So I ask you, are we to reward the imprisonment of peaceful demonstrators and independent journalists? No, I don't think we should. I don't think that we will.
Labor leaders, local civil rights activists, are being tortured today as we speak. They are being jailed by this tyrannical regime. In addition, sex trafficking is on the rise. According to our own State Department report on sexual trafficking, it says in Cuba women and children are trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced child labor.
The Cuban regime does not meet even minimum standards for this so-called thriving sex trade, but rather participates, participates in the commercial, sexual exploitation of these women and children. Are we to reward these violent harassers, this intimidation, these human traffickers? No, we must not.
In a post-September 11 world, Mr. Chairman, Congress should not, we must not, help subsidize trade with a regime that is committed to the destruction of the U.S. Cuba provides safe haven for globally wanted fugitives and pursues even closer ties with Syria and Iran.
Let us not forget then in May of 2001 Fidel Castro said, together, Cuba and Iran will bring America to its knees. The imperialist king will finally fall.
Then, Cuba also voted no on an International Atomic Energy Agency that would have condemned Iran's nonproliferation obligations. I ask my colleagues to stand on the side of political prisoners and reject the Rangel amendment.
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Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding, and I rise in strong opposition to my good friend, Ms. Lee's, amendment.
The proponents of this amendment say that it would allow American students to travel to Cuba. The reality is that under current law educational trips to Cuba by American students are permitted. The restrictions do exist, however, and they are in place in order to ensure that American students studying in Cuba are indeed engaging in legitimate educational activities with substantive academic and cultural components.
This is in contrast to the time before the regulations were put in place in July of 2004. What was happening then? Students were participating in activities with little or no educational merit. These trips were organized under the guise of educational activity but they were in fact spring break getaways and island shopping excursions.
We have to understand and remember that when this amendment was offered last year the elected leaders of the opposition in Cuba wrote a letter to every Member of Congress saying please defeat this amendment; this does not help our cause for freedom.
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