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Will Congress allow trade with Cuba?

By Greg Butterfield

The Cuban Humanitarian Trade Act, a bill introduced this year in the U.S. Congress, would ease some restrictions on trade with socialist Cuba, solidarity activists say.

The legislation would lift sanctions on sales and donations of food, medicines and medical supplies to Cuba.

While it falls far short of ending the illegal U.S. blockade, the legislation does meet an important Cuban requirement. It says that trade is an appropriate relationship between the two countries.

The 37-year U.S. blockade has meant great hardship for Cuba's 11 million people. President Fidel Castro said in July that "We contend that the economic blockade should be considered among the main war crimes committed against a people."

The Cuban Humanitarian Trade Act has 129 sponsors in the House and 25 in the Senate. It is supported by members of the Congressional Black and Latino Caucuses, including Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun and Reps. Maxine Waters, Nydia Velasquez and Charles Rangel.

IFCO/Pastors for Peace, organizers of the U.S.-Cuba Friendshipment caravans, testified on behalf of the legislation in May.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Wheat Association, the Medical Devices Manufacturers and other business groups also testified in favor of easing the blockade.

So far the right-wing in Congress has stalled the bill's progress. Arch-bigot Sen. Jesse Helms introduced his own bill in opposition to this trade bill. His misnamed "Cuban Solidarity Act" would fork over $100 million to counter-revolutionaries inside and outside Cuba.

Cuba seeks trade,
defends socialism

Why is the Cuban Humanitarian Trade Act, which is supported by some big-business groups, also good for Cuba?

Its passage would represent a significant weakening of the U.S. blockade, a key goal for Cuba.

Cuba lost many of its traditional trading partners after the collapse of the USSR and the Eastern European socialist countries. Now Cuba must buy its food, medicines, machinery and computers on the world market with hard currency.

So Cuba has had to open up sections of its economy to foreign investment, such as tourism. Many European businesses have invested there. That helps bring the much-needed hard currency into the country.

Because capitalists always need to expand their markets, the U.S. bosses don't want to be left out. They've begun to put pressure on Washington to end the blockade-for their own greedy purposes.

Cuba's revolutionary government has taken strong measures to guarantee the socialist foundations of their society, based on greater equality, jobs, education and health care for all.

The Cuban government is betting that these measures to regulate investments-along with the revolutionary consciousness of the Cuban people-will allow the country to take advantage of the income during this special period without endangering socialism.

It's the strong solidarity of progressive forces around the world that has put the pressure on to end the blockade. For the trade bill to become law, and for the entire criminal U.S. blockade to end, that solidarity must continue to grow through challenges, education and militant demonstrations.

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