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11/9/01 Cuba Policy legislative update

Cuba policy victory: travel policy
, 7/26

Floor action on Travel, 7/24


Urgent call on travel ban, 5/1/01



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Latin American Working Group

The Latin American Working Group (LAWG) is at the forefront of efforts to fight the embargo.  (LAWG) is a coalition of over sixty religious, human rights, policy, grassroots and development organizations.

New “Omnibus” Bill on U.S./Cuba Policy to be Introduced, 3/00

Request to call the President on legislation which will codify the travel ban, 9/27

Latin America Working Group calls for local U.S./Cuba Policy Advocacy, 4/11

To Stay Involved in the U.S.-Cuba Policy Debate with Timely E-mails on the Most Pertinent Issues

November 9, 2001: Cuba Policy Update

Dear Cuba Policy Advocates:

In this update:

1) Cuba policy language on counter-narcotics cooperation in the 2002 Foreign Operations bill; ACTION;

2) Food and medicine sales legislation update; ACTION;

3) Travel legislation update;

4) Anti-terrorism Act's impact on Cuba policy;

5) Cuban student visa travel restriction proposed by Senators Feinstein and Kyl; ACTION;

6) Otto Reich nomination update; ACTION;

7) Focus on the future

Several legislative initiatives need updating since our last message on September 28.

(1) Cuba policy language on counter-narcotics cooperation in the 2002 Foreign Operations bill. The Senate version of the Foreign Operations Bill for 2002 appropriates $1.5 million for counter-drug cooperation with Cuba.

The Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, which passed the Senate on October 24th, contained unexpected language related to counter-drug cooperation between the United States and Cuba. This language was inserted by Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA). Section 580 of the bill appropriates $1.5 million for "purposes of preliminary work by the Department of State... to establish cooperation with appropriate agencies of the Cuban Government on counter-narcotics matters." The section specifies interest in "mutual assistance in the interdiction of illicit drugs being transported through Cuba airspace or over Cuba waters." This section was written into the original version of the Senate bill, and there was no debate on the issue. No such language appears in the House version, and whether or not this section will be included in the final bill will be decided in conference committee.

Since the September 11th attacks, legislation related to Cuba has been all but non-existent. This recent gesture by the Senate could serve as a stepping stone for future cooperative agreements between the United States and Cuba. U.S. national drug control policy experts have long encouraged the U.S. government to establish a better working relationship with Cuba in the interest of stemming illegal drug flow over Cuba's airspace or through Cuba's national waters. General Barry McCaffrey, former drug czar to President Clinton, was quoted as saying that, "eventually [Cuba] is going to be another economic center in the hemisphere, so we clearly don't want international drug crime dominating Cuba."

It is likely that the conference committee, which will reconcile the House and Senate versions of the bill, will meet during the week of November 12.

ACTION: If your Senators or Representative are members of this committee, call them to encourage that this language on counter-drug cooperation with Cuba be retained in the final bill. See the following websites for committee membership:

http://foreign.senate.gov/committee/index.html 

http://foreign.senate.gov/minority/members.html

http://www.house.gov/international_relations/mem107.htm

The Capitol switchboard number is 202.224.3121.

(2) Food and medicine sales legislation update. A new possibility of "fixing" the financing restrictions on the sale of food and medicine to Cuba has arisen on the Senate's farm bill (agriculture authorization bill).

The Senate Agriculture Committee chair, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), has included a measure in the trade section of the farm bill that would strike the language from the Trade Sanctions Reform Act (in the 2001 Agriculture Appropriations bill/Nethercutt Amendment; now Public Law 106-387) that prohibits the U.S. government and private U.S. firms from financing sales of food and medicine to Cuba.

At the time of this writing, it appears that a version of the financing language was included in the Senate bill, which was marked up (edited) on November 7 in the Senate Agriculture Committee. The Ag Committee voted to allow private financing of food and medicine sales to Cuba. The next hurdl

es will be on the Senate floor in the conference committee to reconcile the House and Senate versions. We also anticipate that the Administration will oppose this provision.

 

Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) had intended to offer a similar amendment to the 2002 Agriculture Appropriations bill. After the September 11 tragedies, he decided not to do so in order to facilitate the appropriations process by omitting controversial issues.

ACTION: If your Senator is a member of the Agriculture Committee, call her/him to let your opinion be known. Tell her/him to work to retain language in the final farm bill that would allow for financing of sales of food and medicine to Cuba. You can check committee membership at: http://agriculture.senate.gov/ . The Capitol switchboard number is 202.224.3121.

NEW DEVELOPMENT: On November 8, Cuba challenged the United States to authorize sales of food and medicine to Cuba in the wake of Hurricane Michelle, the worst hurricane to hit Cuba in 50 years. This request was made in the context of a statement from Cuba declining a U.S. offer of aid following the hurricane. The U.S. offer was conditioned on the distribution of the aid by agencies other than the Cuban government, saying "Our goal would be to provide aid to the people of Cuba, to ensure that the Cuban people benefit and not the Castro regime."

(3) Travel legislation update. On October 25 U.S. lawmakers abandoned efforts for this year to repeal the ban on Americans traveling to Cuba; congressional negotiators omitted language to lift the 40-year-old travel restrictions from the Treasury/Postal Appropriations bill. 

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) said that, after the September 11 terrorist attacks, "the Senate agreed not to attach anything controversial to its bill. The timing wasn't good." Rep. Flake had led the effort in July to pass the travel ban repeal in the House. In addition, President Bush had threatened to veto the entire Treasury/Postal spending bill if the Cuba travel language were retained. Leaders of the Republican-controlled House also opposed lifting the travel ban, despite July's 240 to 186 House vote in favor of denying funding for the enforcement of the U.S. restrictions on travel to Cuba. In fact, members of Congress have voted for two consecutive years to abolish the travel restrictions. Last year, language lifting the travel restrictions was also stricken from a House-approved bill.

Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) made a strong statement on the Senate floor expressing his "great heartburn" about the actions of the Treasury Department and the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in levying fines against people who travel to Cuba. He said he had intended to offer an amendment to end the travel ban on the Senate version of the Treasury/Postal bill. But in order not to slow the passage of the bill post-September 11, he did not offer his amendment. And the effort to retain the House language in the final bill failed.

Both Senator Dorgan and Rep. Flake may take the issue up again next year to either de-fund or repeal U.S. restrictions on travel to Cuba. Support is expected to remain strong in both the Senate and the House.

(4) Anti-terrorism Act (USA PATRIOT Act). After valiant efforts by several Senate and House offices (including Senator Patrick Leahy, D-VT; Rep. George Nethercutt, R-WA; Senator Byron Dorgan, D-ND), and also by a number of NGOs, last year's food and medicine sanctions reform, minimal though it was (the Trade Sanctions Reform Act enacted in as part of the 2001 Agriculture Appropriations bill), was not undermined by passage of the antiterrorism bill, as we had initially feared.

The President's proposed counter-terrorism legislation had said that the Trade Sanctions Reform Act would not apply in cases in which the United States indicates that a foreign entity is connected with terrorism, narcotics trafficking, or proliferation of missiles or weapons of mass destruction.

That meant that the President could have again unilaterally imposed food and medicine sanctions on a broad range of countries that the State Department has accused of being involved in terrorism, narcotics or proliferation. This includes Cuba, Iran, Libya, Syria, China, Pakistan, Russia, and others.

The Administration and Senate leadership finally agreed to a deal, accepted by the House, that left the Trade Sanctions Reform Act (TSRA) intact. The final language simply reiterates that nothing in the TSRA is intended to limit the scope or authority of laws and executive orders addressing terrorism, narcotics trafficking, and proliferation. This was a vast improvement over the Administration's initial draft, which would have granted broad new authorities to the President to impose unilateral sanctions.

(5) Cuban student visa travel restriction proposed by Senators

Feinstein and Kyl. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) have presented a bill, S. 1627, to bar students from seven countries, including Cuba, that "sponsor terrorism" from studying in the United States.

Cuba is specifically listed as one of the countries from which no students could be admitted.

Current co-sponsors of the bill are: Sen. Christopher Bond (R-MO), Sen. Michael DeWine (R-OH), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI), Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-SC).

Senators Feinstein and Kyl do not appear to be concerned with the Cuban students; yet this bill would affect Cuban students who want to study in the United States.

ACTION: It would be helpful if organizations and higher education institutions that have a relationship with Cuba would contact the above senators, and Senator Feinstein especially, to communicate opposition to including Cuban students on the list of targeted populations. The Capitol switchboard number is 202.224.3121.

(6) Otto Reich nominati
on update. Otto Reich, President Bush's choice to be assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs, may be appointed by the President during congressional recess, thus by-passing the Senate confirmation process.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has been unwilling to give Mr. Reich a hearing, but the Administration's support for him appears to be unwavering. Reich's nomination is of special interest to citizens trying to change U.S. policy toward Cuba, as Reich has been a strong supporter of the 40-year embargo against Cuba and played a key role in writing and supporting the Helms/Burton law. You can read about the details of his career on the website of the Center for International Policy at http://www.ciponline.org.nxlkhost.com/reich/index.htm

ACTION: Groups opposing this nomination ask that you contact Senate Foreign Relations Committee members Senator Biden, Senator Dodd, and Senator Kerry to let them know that you support them in their opposition to the nomination of Otto Reich for assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs.

Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE)
United State Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
Phone: 202-224-5042
Fax: 202-224-0139

Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT)
United States Senate
Washington D.C., 20510
Phone: (202) 224-2823
Fax: (202) 228-1683
Senator@dodd.senate.gov

Senator John Kerry (D-MA)
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
Phone: (202) 224-2712
Fax: (202) 224-8525
john_kerry@kerry.senate.gov

(7) Focus on the future. Don't despair.

Though some measures on Cuba policy that we anticipated would find strong support in the Congress this year have been laid aside in the wake of the September 11 attacks, other initiatives are emerging and bipartisan support remains firm for a change in U.S. policy toward Cuba. We expect that the issues of travel and food/medicine sales will be raised again in 2002, and the Bridges to the Cuban People Act (S 1017; HR 2138) is still viable. We need to encourage our legislators to continue their support for these measures and to re-invigorate their efforts in the coming year.

See our website, www.lawg.org, for updates as they happen. As always, anything you learn about the position of your senators or representative is appreciated when you pass it on to us here at LAWG.

Thanks,

Mavis Anderson
Jordan Press
Latin America Working Group

CUBA POLICY VICTORY, 7/26/01

From: "Mavis Anderson" <manderson@lawg.org>
Date sent: Thu, 26 Jul 2001 13:09:50 -0000
July 26, 2001

Dear Cuba Policy Advocates:

Congratulations! Your hard work contributed to a significant victory on the floor of the House of Representatives last night. Thank you!

The amendments about which we wrote to you on Tuesday of this week were introduced and voted upon yesterday. The Flake amendment on travel to Cuba passed by an impressive vote of 240 to 186. The Rangel amendment on restricting funding to enforce the full embargo received a very strong vote, though it did not pass. The vote count on the Rangel amendment was 201 to 227. This was an increase of 27 positive votes over what the same amendment received last year.

We feel that both of these votes were very important. In the face of a difficult environment and an Administration strongly opposed to a change in US policy toward Cuba, members of Congress voted for a new way to relate to Cuba. More Republicans than ever supported these efforts, even though the White House was actively calling Republicans lobbying them to oppose the Flake and Rangel amendments, and even though the House Majority Whip, Tom DeLay, made the closing argument for the opposition. For more in-depth details and vote counts, read below [not reproduced as too garbled].

The debate now moves to the Senate. Several pieces of legislation will come up both before and after the August recess to which Cuba amendments may be added. We'll send more information to you as it becomes available. Watch for amendments by Senators Dorgan (D-ND) and Roberts (R-KS), and for action on Senators Dodd (D-CT) and Chafee's (R-RI) Bridges to the Cuban People Act.

ACTION: Continue to contact your senators urging their support for the Bridges to the Cuban People Act (S. 1017) and to amendments that would relax the embargo on Cuba. The Capitol switchboard number is 202.224.3121.

ACTION: Call your representatives with a thank you if they spoke in favor of or voted for the Flake or Rangel amendments to Treasury/Postal. The vote lists are below the signature line, or you can find them on the web at <thomas.loc.gov> . Look under H.R. 2590, click on Bill Summary and Status, click on Amendments, look at Amdt 241 and Amdt 242 (numbers 12 and 13), click on Roll No. 270 and Roll No. 271.

MORE DETAILS:Here's what happened yesterday afternoon and evening on the Treasury/Postal Appropriations bill (H.R. 2590): Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) offered an amendment designed to replace the amendment authored by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ). Mr Flake's amendment states that none of the funds made available by the Treasury/Postal Appropriations Act may be used to enforce the Cuban assets Control Regulations with respect to any travel or travel-related transaction. This means that there would be no funding available to enforce the travel ban to Cuba. While this does not change the law and authorize legal travel to Cuba, it does send a strong message about the will of the House and of the American people regarding US citizens right of freedom to travel to Cuba.

The Smith amendment used Flake's language on travel to Cuba, but added conditions (release of all political prisoners in Cuba and return to the US of all people residing in Cuba who are sought by the US for crimes committed here). While we support the release of political prisoners and extradition of convicted persons to the US, the Smith amendment would not have accomplished this; and it would have done nothing positive to allow US citizens to travel to Cuba. It was designed to subvert the Flake amendment. We opposed the Smith amendment, and we supported the Flake amendment.

Mr. Flake then offered his amendment as a substitute for the Smith amendment. A spirited debate followed, with some new voices being heard. Speaking in favor of the Flake amendment were: Reps. McGovern (D-MA), Otter (R-ID), Berman (D-CA), Moran, Jerry (R-KS), Rangel (D-NY), Roemer (D-IN), Delahunt (D-MA), Thompson, Mike (D-CA), Moran, J.P. (D-VA). Speaking in favor of the Smith amendment and against the Flake amendment were: Reps. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Rothman (D-NJ), Fossella (R-NY), Wexler (D-FL), Blunt (R-MO), Deutsch (D-FL), Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Menendez (D-NJ), DeLay (R-TX and Majority Whip of the House).

The House also then considered the amendment by Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) pertaining the withholding funds for the enforcement of the entire embargo, a more ambitious amendment. Speaking in favor of the amendment were: Wynn (D-MD), Lee (D-CA), Waters (D-CA), Hinchey (D-NY). Speaking against were: Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Kingston (R-GA), Menendez (D-NJ), Burton (R-IN), Diaz-Balart (R-FL).

Please call or e-mail if you have further questions, and thanks again for any response you are able to make to the above actions.

Sincerely,

Mavis Anderson
Jordan Press
Latin America Working Group
website: http://www.lawg.org

FINAL VOTE RESULTS FOR ROLL CALL 270
H R 2590 RECORDED VOTE 25-JUL-2001 6:08 PM

AUTHOR(S): Flake of Arizona Substitute To Smith (NJ) Amendment
QUESTION: On Agreeing to the Amendment

AYES NOES PRES NV

REPUBLICAN 67 151 3

DEMOCRATIC 172 34 4

INDEPENDENT 1 1

TOTALS 240 186 7

CUBA POLICY: FLOOR ACTION TOMORROW, 7/24/01

From: "Mavis Anderson" <manderson@lawg.org>
Date sent: Tue, 24 Jul 2001 13:39:20 -0000

Dear Cuba Policy Advocates:

Greetings. Please make three phone calls on U.S. policy toward Cuba today! This may be our only opportunity in the House of Representatives this year to impact Cuba policy, so I urge you to act today. In the Senate we have the chance to reverse the negative results on the Agriculture Appropriations bill of last year, and this merits your immediate attention, also.

HOUSE: This week (likely tomorrow--Wednesday) Representatives Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Jerry Moran (R-KS), and Howard Berman (D-CA), plus others being added, will offer an amendment to the FY2002 Treasury/Postal Appropriation bill, H.R. 2590. The amendment says that no funds in the bill may be used to enforce the Department of the Treasury's regulations prohibiting U.S. citizens from traveling to Cuba.

On the same bill, Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY) will offer an amendment to prohibit any funds made available in this act from being used to implement, administer, or enforce the full economic embargo of Cuba.

The Latin America Working Group supports both of these amendments.

ACTION on the House bill: Call your Congressperson and solicit his/her support for both the Flake amendment on travel to Cuba and the Rangel amendment on de-funding the enforcement of the entire embargo, both on the Treasury/Postal Appropriations bill. You can reach your Congressperson by calli

ng the Capitol switchboard at 202.224.3121. Just ask for your Congressperson's office. Because time is so short, phone calls are the most effective way to reach your member's office.

SENATE: This week Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Pat Roberts (R-KS) will sponsor an amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations bill that would make it easier to sell food and medicine to Cuba and other countries. The amendment would "correct" some of the features of the food and medicine measure that was signed into law last year:

1) It would repeal the restriction on financing of sales to Cuba;

2) It would repeal the codification of the travel restrictions (Note: it does not end travel restrictions, but it goes back to the prior situation in which travel was restricted by regulation, not by law.);

3) It would repeal the requirement of licenses for exports to Cuba forever (until Congress passes a new law), even after Cuba is removed from the "terrorist" list;

4) It would clarify that ships carrying legal cargo to Cuba in accord with the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of last year are not subject to the 180-day restriction of docking in US ports.

The Latin America Working Group supports this amendment.

ACTION on the Senate bill: Call your two senators and urge that they vote for the Dorgan-Roberts Cuba amendment on the Agriculture Appropriations bill. Again, phone calls would be preferred because of the timing. The Capitol switchboard number is 202.224.3121.

Feedback from you is always appreciated. I'll update you after the votes, and I'll keep you informed as to the progress of the Bridges to the Cuban People Act.

Thanks for anything you can do!

Sincerely,

Mavis Anderson
Latin America Working Group
website: http://www.lawg.org

Urgent call on lifting the travel ban, 5/1/01

This message is especially for U.S./Cuba Policy Advocates in NY, CA, OH, LA, FL, and MI:

There has been a recent, important development in our efforts to ease the US embargo against Cuba that requires our attention and work. This Wednesday, May 2, Congressman Howard Berman (D-CA) will be introducing an amendment to the State Department Authorization Bill in the International Relations Committee to remove travel restrictions from all economic embargoes currently in force. This would impact Cuba.

In an effort to get this amendment passed on the State Department Bill, it is important that anyone with contacts in the districts of the Members of Congress on the International Relations Committee get their grassroots mobilized to encourage their members to vote for the Berman Amendment. With only two days to mobilize, a short burst of lots of calls will do a lot of good towards getting this passed. Key members to contact are: Chabot (OH), Cooksey (LA), Smith (MI), Tancredo (CO), McHugh (NY), King (NY), Houghton (NY), Crowley (NY), Engel (NY), Davis (FL), Hastings (FL), Issa (CA), and Schiff (CA). (A full list of committee members and how they've previously voted on travel issues can be found at www.lawg.org/berman.htm.) When calling, faxing, or e-mailing offices, you may reference a Dear Colleague letter which Congressman Berman sent out on April 30 to all members of the committee.

The Berman Amendment is especially important at this point in time as a sign that those interested in lifting the embargo are not going to relinquish our agenda. After the impending nomination of Otto Reich to the State Department and numerous signs that the Bush Administration plans to crack down on Cuba, this is the clear signal that we need to send that our agenda is the one that Congress and the American people favor. If we can pass the Berman Amendment, we will go a long way towards regaining control of the Cuba agenda in Congress and put the White House on notice.

Please call, fax, or email today. If possible please let us know how you acted upon this request. Copies of emails sent are appreciated. The Capitol Switchboard Number is (202) 224-3121 You can find members' email addresses at www.house.gov/writerep.

Sincerely,

Mavis Anderson
Cuba Project Coordinator

Jordan Press
Cuba Program Assistant
Latin America Working Group
110 Maryland Avenue, NE, Box 15
Washington, DC 20002
202.546.7010

website: http://www.lawg.org

202/546-7010 tel.
202/543-7647 fax

New “Omnibus” Bill on U.S./Cuba Policy to be Introduced, 3/00

A much-anticipated bill that would significantly reform U.S. policy toward Cuba is expected to be introduced in both the House and Senate on March 20.  Companion bills entitled the “Bridges to the Cuban People Act of 2001” are being introduced by Representatives Jose Serrano (D-NY) and Jim Leach (R-IA) in the House and Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) in the Senate.  Representatives Serrano and Leach, as well as Senator Dodd are currently asking other members to become original cosponsors.  This means that they would be listed as supporters of the bill when it is introduced.  Representative Serrano’s office is circulating a Dear Colleague letter that describes the legislation.

For details, see http://www.lawg.org/omnibus.htm

Urgent request to call the President on legislation which will codify the travel ban, 9/27

[Note: this was written just before members of the House and Senate Agricultural Appropriations committee gave in to pressures brought by the republican leadership under representatives DeLay of Texas and Diaz-Balart of Miami.  It remains all the more necessary]

Date sent:
Wed, 27 Sep 2000 17:26:01 -0400
From: Mavis Anderson <manderson@lawg.org>
Subject: CUBA: CALL THE PRESIDENT

Dear U.S./Cuba Policy Advocates:

As you know, last month we won significant victories in both the House and the Senate on easing the food and medicine embargo on Cuba. But the House Republican leadership is still maneuvering to prevent these victories from being finalized into law. They have proposed a "compromise" so restrictive that no real sales of food or medicine to Cuba will result from it, and that will freeze the current restrictions on travel into law. In the closing days of this legislative session, the Republican House leadership is trying to sneak this wording into any one of several legislative options.

The President may be one of our last key opportunities to block the passage of Cuba policy legislation that would move us backward rather than forward. The Republican House leadership appears determined to pass legislation, despite opposition in the House of Representatives, Senate, and by the American public, that would take away the President’s ability to make it easier to travel to Cuba. We need the President to speak out strongly against this anti-democratic House Republican plan before a vote is taken in Congress on the legislation. Because the House leadership could insert this plan into any of several different pieces of legislation, the message to communicate must be opposition to this plan, not to any specific piece of legislation.

PLEASE CALL OR FAX THE PRESIDENT TODAY WITH THE FOLLOWING

MESSAGE:

1) Oppose Congressional efforts to step backward on U.S. citizens' ability to travel to Cuba.

2) Don't give away Presidential powers to modify regulations on travel to Cuba.

3) Restricting the right of American citizens to travel to Cuba goes against the Clinton Administration’s two-year policy of encouraging people-to-people contacts.

4) Strongly oppose House Republicans' efforts to pass language on the Agriculture Appropriations bill that does not represent the will of the Congress or of the American people.

White House Comment Line: 202/456-1111 (be sure to leave your name and address) President Clinton's Fax: 202/456-2461

If you'd prefer to e-mail the President, you may do so at president@whitehouse.gov. If you are able, we'd prefer that you call or fax, as telephone calls and faxes may have a bigger impact.

Please let me know what action you take. Spread this message widely.

Thanks!

Sincerely,

Mavis Anderson
Latin America Working Group

[For reasons why you need to call, see CANF Praises Republican Leadership For Putting Principle Before Tainted Profit, 10/6 - sample of CANF propaganda showing their victory]

Latin America Working Group calls for local U.S./Cuba Policy Advocacy, 4/11

Date sent: Tue, 11 Apr 2000 12:39:40 -0400
From: Mavis Anderson manderson@knight-hub.com

Subject: Call for local U.S./Cuba Policy Advocacy

Dear U.S./Cuba Policy Advocates:

Last month more than 80 people from organizations around the country met in Washington, DC, to discuss coordinated efforts to change U.S. policy toward Cuba. One of the outcomes of that meeting was a call for U.S./Cuba policy-related advocacy around the country from April 24-26, 2000. Many of you have already heard about this call; some of you may not yet have received word. We hope that you will plan and carry out local actions on these dates. These actions could focus on congressional advocacy, public education, cultural events, etc., as your group sees fit.

Attached you will find a page giving further information and suggestions for these activies. Your congresspeople will be on recess in their districts, so this is a very good time to make appointments to meet with  them.

Recent developments in Congress make this an especially good time to focus on educational visits to your Representative. We have recently won an important victory in the Senate. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC), approved (without dissent) language in a bill that would significantly ease the U.S. food and medicine embargo on Cuba. This means that the Senate is likely to approve legislation to end the food and medicine sales ban, and it also means that this is a critical time to focus our educational and advocacy efforts on the House of Representatives.

Currently, the Serrano bill to end the embargo on food and medicine sales to Cuba has 163 co-sponsors in the House. Visits to undecided Members of the House in their district offices during the April 24-26 U.S./Cuba Policy Actions Days would be especially helpful, and visits to reinforce and encourage those who have already co-sponsored the legislation would help as well. Please circulate the attached (camera-ready) call for the U.S./Cuba Policy Action Days as widely as you can in your networks and among your contacts. Encourage groups you know and work with to organize congressional visits or other activities during April 24-26.

If you want more information on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee bill referred to above, check out LAWG's website at www.lawg.org. If you want to confirm the status of your Representative on the Serrano bill, go to the Tomas website, http://thomas.loc.gov, and search under Bill Summary & Status for the 106th Congress. The Bill number is H.R. 1644. A list of current co-sponsors for this bill is available on that site. Or give us a call at LAWG at 202/546-7010.

Thanks for whatever you can do during these days. Many of us in DC will also be making hill visits to Representatives' offices at the same time that actions are taking place in the districts. Please let us know what activities you plan and the results of any visits to Members' offices.

Sincerely,

Mavis Anderson
Latin America Working Group


U.S./CUBA POLICY ACTION DAYS

APRIL 24 - APRIL 26, 2000

 The U.S. embargo on Cuba has been in place for nearly forty years. U.S. law has limited trade and travel, prevented the sale of food and medicine, and restricted contact between U.S. and Cuban citizens.

But in the last few years, increasing numbers of U.S. citizens have discovered an interest in Cuba and have begun to question the embargo and its restrictions on contact between the U.S. and the Cuban people. In fact, more and more citizens are visiting Cuba, meeting Cuban visitors here, listening to Cuban cultural performances and seeing Cuban films, and taking political action to change U.S. policy.

In mid-March, organizers and activists from around the country met in Washington to discuss initiatives to change U.S. policy toward Cuba. In that meeting, we agreed that there is growing interest in U.S./Cuba policy and growing support for re-engaging with Cuba. And we concluded that now is the time to make that support visible.

Thus we are calling on U.S./Cuba policy activists – solidarity groups, faith-based organizations, those in humanitarian and development organizations, concerned Cuba-Americans, and others – to adopt April 24th to April 26th as U.S./Cuba Policy Action Days. During those days, we ask you to organize an event that will make visible in your community the growing interest in Cuba, and in changing U.S. policy toward Cuba.

This event can take many forms. You may want to:

_ Do a cultural event (show a film, do a concert, host an art show, have a reading);

_ Host a speaker or conduct a forum;

_ Visit your Congressperson or Senator in his/her district office to discuss the initiative to permit the sale of food and medicine to Cuba, or freedom to travel to Cuba;

_ Attend a campaign event for a candidate for public office and raise the issue of U.S./Cuba policy;

_ Hold a vigil or a picket.

There are many creative options. What we hope to do is to make visible in cities all over the country the extent to which U.S. citizens are in support of a new approach to Cuba, and are seeking new kinds of engagement.

Given recent developments in the Congress, we urge you, at a minimum, to organize a visit to your congressional representative to discuss U.S./Cuba policy.

If you plan an activity or an action, please keep us informed. Many of our organizations have resources to help with particular activities. If you’d like a copy of the Latin America Working Group’s organizing packet, Put U.S./Cuba Policy in the Campaign, e-mail to lawg@lawg.org or call at 202.546.7010.

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