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Transportation, Treasury, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Act, 2005

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Location: Washington, DC


TRANSPORTATION, TREASURY, AND INDEPENDENT AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2005 -- (House of Representatives - September 21, 2004)

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to House Resolution 770 and rule XVIII, the Chair declares the House in the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union for the further consideration of the bill, H.R. 5025.

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Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time, and I rise in very strong opposition to the Davis amendment and the other four amendments being offered on Cuba today.

Under the current U.S. laws, we all know, travel to Cuba is allowed for 13 licensed categories. Last year, under these licenses, approximately 100,000 U.S. citizens traveled to Cuba, the vast majority of whom were family members. However, these new regulations promulgated by the administration would further refine this travel to deny at least some of the $96 million in hard currency that has been gotten and gleaned by this rogue regime, through the manipulation of those family visits in 2003, the number from that year. Custom duties and excess baggage fees have added $20 million more in revenue to this gross dictatorship.

To my colleagues, I want to say that I just held a hearing, along with the gentleman from California (Mr. Hunter), on the issue of human trafficking. Cuba is a Tier III country, an egregious violator when it comes to human trafficking. Approval of this amendment would prop up a regime that not only traffics in human persons, but allows for the exploitation of young children, who are reduced to this horrible thing called child prostitution. When we allow trafficking and child prostitution for the amusement of those who travel there, many of whom bring that hard currency that is now permitted by this administration, I think we are seriously erring and making a grave mistake. We are also enobling and enabling a human rights violator.

Let me also say to my good friend and colleague who spoke a moment ago about the political prisoner, Dr. Biscet, and so many others who are subjected to unspeakable cruelty. A couple of years ago, I offered an amendment that said we will lift the travel ban if and only if the prisoners are let go. Fidel Castro has said one big no to that. And not only has he continued to incarcerate and torture hundreds of political prisoners, the best and the brightest and the bravest of Cuba, he now has arrested another 75 to 80 more and meted out sentences of 25 to 27 years. That is unconscionable.

We do not want to directly or indirectly enable that kind of dictatorship, that kind of repressive regime. If my colleagues or myself were sitting in one of Cuba's gulags, we would hope that someone would say human rights do matter; that we are not going to provide the hard currency to prop up his regime so that his thugs can so mistreat those prisoners.

I have tried, along with the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Wolf), to get into the prisons of Cuba and I have been denied. I can get into Cuba and meet with Fidel Castro and have a jawfest for 4 or 5 hours, as some of my colleagues have, but to get into the prisons to say these people should be allowed to go, no, we cannot do that. The ICRC, the Red Cross, has tried repeatedly to get into those prisons and has been refused.

Mr. Chairman, I urge my colleagues to vote "no" on this amendment. This is all about human rights and enabling a dictatorship. Say no to the Davis amendment.

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Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Chairman, with all due respect to my friend and colleague, those kinds of words have no place in a reasonable and dignified debate. That is beyond the pale. I would hope the gentleman would retract them.

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