Republican senator urges revision of US policy toward Cuba

February 24th, 2009 - 4:54 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Feb 24 (IANS) Republican Senator Richard Lugar is pushing for a re-evaluation of US policy toward Cuba, considering that the economic embargo imposed in 1962 has not spurred democratic change in the communist-ruled state.
Lugar, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a letter accompanying a report Monday that although economic sanctions can be a “legitimate” tool of US foreign policy, in the case of Cuba such measures had failed.

“We must recognise the ineffectiveness of our current policy and deal with the Cuban regime in a way that enhances US interests,” Lugar said in the letter.

Echoing some of the sentiments of the groups lobbying for democratic change in Cuba, the senator also emphasised that the embargo had given the Cuban government an ongoing excuse to justify the hardships suffered by the impoverished population there.

The 25-page report is the product of a Jan 11-14 trip to Cuba by several of Lugar’s advisors.

During the trip, the US delegation met Cuban officials, foreign diplomats, religious and business leaders, international journalists and other members of the civil society, Lugar said.

The analysis, which was headed up by Lugar’s advisor for Latin America, Carl Meacham, does not recommend the lifting of the embargo, but it does urge Washington to “re-evaluate a complex relationship marked by misunderstanding, suspicion, and open hostility”, EFE reported.

Among other recommendations, the report calls for the lifting of restrictions on travel and sending of remittances to Cuba that were imposed by the George W. Bush administration.

During his election campaign, President Barack Obama promised to lift the Bush administration’s restrictions on travel and sending of remittances to Cuba.

Cuba’s President Raul Castro, who succeeded his ailing older brother Fidel Castro a year ago, has repeatedly expressed willingness to meet with Obama.

In a statement sent to Lugar’s office last month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the Obama administration would conduct a review of US policy toward Cuba.

Clinton also repeated her commitment to work with members of the committee and other members of Congress while moving forward “on the consideration of appropriate steps” to advance the interests and values of the US in the context of relations with Havana.

According to the report, the embargo contradicts the stance of other Latin American countries with regard to a greater rapprochement with Cuba and impedes cooperation with the island in matters of mutual interest such as immigration and the anti-drug fight.

In addition, US policy gives the regime in Havana a “scapegoat for its economic difficulties and an external threat with which it justifies its authoritarianism” and ignores recent events that could redefine relations with Cuba.

Recently, lawmakers in the House of Representatives presented a bill to lift travel restrictions on the island.

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