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Senate Forms Cuba Working Group

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On March 21, ten members of the Senate announced the formation of a bipartisan “Cuba Working Group.” According to their announcement, the purpose of this working group is to examine US policies toward Cuba, including current trade and travel restrictions. The group hopes to move in unison with the year-old House Cuba Working Group in this year’s legislative session. The groups will likely introduce identical bills on travel in the near future in their respective chambers, with the hope that this coordinated push will move the issue further legislatively than in past years and get travel legislation to the President’s desk.

Founding senators are: Max Baucus (D-MT), Michael Enzi (R-WY), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Norm Coleman (R-MN), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Jim Talent (R-MO), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), and Pat Roberts (R-KS). These initial senators are chairs, ranking members, subcommittee chairs, or members of several key committees, including the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence; the Senate Finance Committee; the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; the Senate Appropriations Committee; the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Both chambers of the U.S. Congress now have working groups committed to a new approach to U.S. policy toward Cuba. The year-old House Cuba Working Group — with 25 Republican and 25 Democratic members — has led the way on many of the advances toward ending the embargo in the past year. We at the Latin America Working applaud their efforts and are excited about the possibilities for meaningful progress in a coordinated way involving both the House and Senate.

Update: Within a week of the founding of the Senate Cuba Working Group, Senators Christopher Dodd (D-CT) and Kit Bond (R-MO) joined the group.

Call your senators to urge them to join the group. Thank the ten senators who have formed this group (list above). Senators may join the group by contacting Senator Enzi’s (R-MT) or Senator Baucus’s (D-MT) office.

You may contact their Washington, DC, office by calling the US Capitol switchboard at 202.224.3121 and asking to be transferred to your senator’s office. Or, you may call them in their state office; phone numbers may be found on their websites by visiting www.senate.gov. Email addresses are also available on those websites.

Letter to Senators Frist and Daschle on the formation of a Senate Working Group on Cuba below.


March 21, 2003

Dear Senators Frist and Daschle:

We are writing to inform you of our intention to launch the Senate Working Group on Cuba. The Working Group will examine U.S. policies toward Cuba, including current trade and travel restrictions.

The sanction policy of the United States has been ineffective since it was adopted in 1962. Other nations trade with Cuba, and their producers benefit from that trade. The U.S. policy places our farmers, workers, and companies at an international competitive disadvantage. By some estimates, the United States loses out on an export market of nearly $1 billion per year.

Current U.S. policy also hinders our ability to interact with the Cuban people by restricting American citizens right to travel to Cuba. We believe that the American people can have greater influence on Cuban society by developing a relationship with the Cuban people. That is the only way to influence the peaceful transition to democracy and a market-oriented economy.

We are pleased with the formation of this group and look forward to working with you on matters related to Cuba.

Sincerely,

Max Baucus (D-MT)
Byron Dorgan (D-ND)
Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)
Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
Michael Enzi (R-WY)
Chuck Hagel (R-NE)
Norm Coleman (R-MN)