Friday, October 9, 2009

GAO Report Provides Roadmap for Ending U.S. Embargo of Cuba

Congressman Rangel, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, and Congressman Jeff Flake released the following joint press release on Oct. 2:

Chairman Charles B. Rangel (D-NY), Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D – CA), and Congressman Jeff Flake (R-AZ) today released a GAO report (GAO-09-951R) that outlines the steps President Obama and Congress can take to bring an end to the failed U.S. embargo of Cuba.

“It is our hope that this GAO report will serve as a roadmap to finally reject a failed and outdated policy that has not resulted in any advances for the Cuban or American people," Rangel said. "A thorough rethinking of our policy regarding our nearest Caribbean neighbor is long overdue, and we believe that the time to act is now."

In its analysis, the GAO outlines the extent of the President’s authority to further ease regulatory restrictions, such as those on travel, remittances, gift parcels, and trade with Cuba. The President can ease travel to Cuba for certain purposes such as journalism and scholarship, increase the amount of cash remittances travelers may carry to Cuba, and expand the list of items eligible for gifts. The President can also ease restrictions currently placed on vessels that have entered a Cuban port. However, the President cannot suspend or terminate the embargo without the cooperation and support of the Congress.

“After nearly 50 years, the embargo has failed to defund, destabilize, or weaken the Cuban government. There has been a smooth transition of power to the new Cuban President, Raúl Castro, and with a new Administration here at home, it is time to use this nonpartisan report as a blueprint to bring the Cold War rivalries of the past to a final and long overdue close,” Congresswoman Lee said.

Congress recently eased the strict limits on family travel to Cuba and lowered some of the barriers on trade. In April, President Obama announced a number of changes designed to further ease embargo restrictions on family travel, cash remittances, and gift parcels to Cuba and to facilitate expanded telecommunications between the two countries.

“One would expect the Cuban government to restrict the travel and commerce of its citizens, but for our government to impose similar restrictions on Americans has never made sense,” Congressman Flake said. “After nearly 50 years, it’s time to concede that our current policy toward Cuba has failed. If we’re serious about hastening democratic reforms in Cuba, we need to try a new approach.”

“The unilateral embargo on Cuba is the most draconian set of U.S. economic sanctions against any country on earth – far exceeding sanctions against nations Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria,” Rangel said.

"The continued enforcement of the embargo hurts Cuban American families, the Cuban people and closes markets for American products. We look forward to working with the Administration to implement the roadmap outlined in this report,” Lee said.

During the past Administration, President George Bush clamped down on travelers and shipments to and from Cuba. In 2007, in a report (GAO-08-80) requested by Chairman Rangel and Congresswoman Lee, the GAO found that the increased intensive inspections of travelers returning from Cuba with personal items such as rum and cigars came at the expense of border security focused on terrorists. Bush also tightened restrictions on family travel and reduced the ability of family members to send cash and gifts to relatives in Cuba.

The new report can be accessed here:

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