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In the News Congress fires opening salvo in bid to reverse ... · PDF file their golden years. But as Cuba’s economy con-tinues to falter and prices for basic staples rise, the elderly

Oct 04, 2020





    Sometimes, the 69-year-old retiree has noth-ing but eggs and rice to put on his family'stable for days on end. He and his wife accept the dull menu as one

    of the many hardships they must endure on a retiree’s meager pension in Cuba. But the man’s stepdaughter, a 36-year-old woman with Down’s Syndrome, often does not understand why she can’t have fried chicken or a pork chop instead.

    “The economy is going up, they say,” observed the man, who, like others interviewed for this story, did not want his name published. “What economy?”

    If life is complicated for the average Cuban these days, it is even more so for the island’s senior citizens.

    Forced to retire at age 60, the wiry, old man struggles to get by on 134 pesos a month, or about $5. The sum is less than half of what most Cubans earn in a month.

    Like many other Cuban retirees, he has had to keep working in the island’s black market. With a car and some gas, he supplements his paltry wages with a makeshift taxi service that could fetch him a hefty $60 fine, lead to the seizure of his car or even land him in jail.

    With the advent of Cuba’s communist revolu- tion, those coming of age welcomed promises that the government would take care of them in their golden years. But as Cuba’s economy con- tinues to falter and prices for basic staples rise, the elderly are finding they can’t solely rely on the government to meet all their needs. Instead, they are turning — at great risk — to the black market to make ends meet.

    “There was a day before the special period when those pensions were adequate,” said Philip Peters, a Cuba expert at the Lexington Institute, a think tank based in Arlington, Va. “Once the economy changed, it became neces-


    Prodded by agricultural interests, lawmak-ers have made their first attempt to rollback President Bush’s new restrictions on trade to Cuba, but have already been checkmat- ed by embargo supporters.

    Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) tried to attach an amendment to a supplemental spending bill that would have reversed a recent regulation requiring Cuba to pay for its U.S. food purchas- es in cash before they’re shipped to the island.

    Chambliss’ amendment, identical to a free- standing bill he introduced Mar. 16 and to a companion House bill introduced by Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO), would allow Cuba to pay for food shipments once they reached the docks in Havana. That was the most common arrange- ment before the new regulation.

    In mid-April, Chambliss introduced his amendment to a Senate version of an $81 billion spending bill that would pay for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as provide U.S. aid

    to South Asian tsunami victims. The amendment was expected to pass in the

    Senate, where majorities have consistently voted to ease sanctions on Cuba.

    But Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), an embargo supporter, prevented the amendment from com- ing to a vote, saying the Chambliss amendment was not germaine to the supplemental spending bill. Ensign won the procedural fight, and the attempt to make it easier for U.S. farmers to sell to the Castro regime was quashed.

    But the effort to win Senate approval for the amendment is just the first salvo in this year’s expected congressional battles over Cuba.

    The most ambitious bill regarding Cuba was introduced in February by Sens. Larry Craig (R-ID), Max Baucus (D-MT) and 18 other farm- state senators.

    The Agricultural Export Facilitation Act, as it’s known, would allow Cuba to pay for ship- ments on delivery and authorize direct transfers

    In the News

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    PDVSA to drill for oil Castro, Chávez sign a raft of shipping, fin- ancial and trade accords ...............Page 4

    Sweet home Alabama Port city of Mobile to host National Sum- mit on Cuba next month ...............Page 4

    $9.00 a month Fidel boosts Cuba’s monthly minimum wage from 100 to 225 pesos .........Page 6

    Plastic unwelcome Ontario-based stops ac- cepting U.S. credit cards ..............Page 6

    Newsmakers Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, in an ex- clusive interview with CubaNews, tells us about her recent trip to Cuba .......Page 8

    Sugar disaster Cuba’s record-low sugar harvest to yield only 1.3m tons this year ..............Page 10

    Business briefs CEO helps Cuba fight computer viruses; Meliá to open 22nd hotel ............Page 12

    FAR into the future Domingo Amuchastegui ponders the role of Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed Forces in a post-Castro world .....................Page 14

    Vol. 13, No. 5 May 2005

    See Congress, page 2

    See Elderly, page 7

    CubaNews (ISSN 1073-7715) is published monthly by Luxner News Inc. © 2005. All rights reserved. Subscriptions: $429/year. For subscription or edito- rial inquiries, call us at (301) 365-1745, send a fax to (301) 365-1829 or e-mail us at [email protected]

    Congress fires opening salvo in bid to reverse Bush crackdown on Cuba trade

    For older Cubans squeezed out of tight job market, life is a constant struggle

  • 2 CubaNews ❖ May 2005

    Congress — FROM PAGE 1 from Cuban financial institutions to American banks to facilitate sales.

    “With our farmers and processors facing difficult times, and some shippers and ports relying heavily on Cuban trade, it is perplex- ing that bureaucrats, still stuck in a Cold War mentality, continue to try and curb one-way export markets,” said Craig.

    His legislation would also ease visa restric- tions on Cuban government officials who wish to travel to the United States to negotiate farm sales, and also make it easier for American farmers to get U.S. permission to travel to Cuba.

    In addition, the legislation would repeal a U.S. law that gave Bacardi, a company owned by Cuban exiles, the edge in a trademark fight with Havana Club Holdings, a joint venture between the Cuban government and French liquor giant Pernod Ricard.

    There was an attempt to introduce the Craig bill to the Senate’s supplemental spend- ing bill. But its backers were persuaded that the Chambliss amendment — being more modest in scope — would have a greater chance of passing. Now supporters for easing trade restrictions on Cuba are scrambling for a new strategy.

    “At this point, we’re just trying to figure out what our next step is,” Chris Garza, a lobbyist

    for the American Farm Bureau Federation, told CubaNews.

    The most likely move is to try to attach the legislation to one of the 13 spending bills that would fund the federal government next year, and which are supposed to be passed by the Oct. 1 start of the new fiscal year, Garza said.

    Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) seems to be weighing whether to hold a long-scheduled hearing on Craig’s bill in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which Lugar chairs. That would give the bill publicity and help shore up support for the legislation.

    But a spokesman for the Foreign Relations Committee said Lugar hadn’t made a decision yet. Lugar opposes unilateral sanctions but has largely kept out of the dispute over Cuba.

    A bill that’s likely to get another vote in the House this year is the perennial legislation sponsored by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) which would lift restrictions on U.S. travel to Cuba.

    “I believe the political winds are right for action on this issue this year,” Flake said. A companion bill has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY).

    GOP leaders are likely to keep the Flake legislation from being considered in the House or Senate unless its sponsors attach it to another bill.

    For the last several years, Flake has suc- ceeded in attaching legislation barring en- forcement of the embargo’s travel regulations to the Treasury Department budget bill. That

    bill funds Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which enforces the Cuba embargo. And last year, the Senate for the first time fol- lowed suit.

    But GOP leaders stripped the travel provi- sion from the final bill sent to Bush, whose administration had been otherwise threaten- ing a veto.

    Embargo supporters have also introduced legislation this year.

    Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln Díaz-Balart, Florida Republicans who are both Cuban exiles, sponsored a bill making it an ethical violation for a senator or House member to enter into an agreement to ease sanctions with a representative of any nation on the State Department’s terrorist list, which of course includes Cuba.

    But farm state lawmakers continue to trav- el to Cuba to seek trade opportunities for their constituents.

    For example, Rep. Bennie Thompson (R- MS) is taking a delegation of Mississippi far- mers and businessmen to Cuba next month. The delegation may also include representa- tives of the ports of Gulfport and Vicksburg.

    Thompson hopes to boost Mississippi’s trade with Cuba, but he said the new regula- tions forcing Cuba to pay for U.S. food exports before they’re delivered won’t help.

    “That little quirk in the law has made it more difficult,” he said. �

    Robert Andrews (D-New Jersey) Allen Boyd (D-Florida) Dan Burton (R-Indiana) Lincoln Díaz-Balart (R-Florida) Mario Díaz-Balart (R-Florida) Eliot Engel (D-New York) Tom Feeney (R-Florida) Luís Fortuño (R-Puerto Rico) Steve King (R-Iowa) Connie Mack (R-Florida) Patrick McHenry (R-North Carolina) Kendrick Meek (D-Florida) Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) Frank Patton (D-New Jersey) Mike Pence (R-Indiana) Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Flori

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