By Jack Colhoun
WASHINGTON — Representative Robert Torricelli sounded a clarion call for an escalated confrontation between the United States and Cuba when he introduced his Cuba Democracy Act Feb. 5.
Flanked by Jorge Mas Canosa, head of the ultrarightist Cuban American National Foundation, the New Jersey Democrat challenged the Bush administration to wage all-out economic war against Cuba and step up US aid to Cuban dissidents.
Torricelli's bill would "multilateralise" the 32-year-old US embargo of Cuba. It would close loopholes in the embargo that permit foreign subsidiaries of US corporations to trade with Cuba. It would bar ships that trade with Cuba from entering US ports. It would also press the administration to get tough with US allies who maintain trade links with Havana. US aid to countries whose trade is found to "subsidise the Castro government" would be cut off.
The bill also authorises the administration to provide more assistance to Cuban dissidents and anti-Castro groups through non-governmental organisations. Last year, the National Endowment for Democracy gave Cuban dissidents $462,000, up more than 60% from 1990.
The amount of commerce that would be affected is significant. Trade between Cuba and foreign subsidiaries of US companies increased to $705 million in 1990 from $332 million in 1989, with the ones based in Switzerland, Britain, Canada and Argentina exporting the most. Brazil and Mexico also do considerable trade with Cuba.
Torricelli makes no secret that his goal is to overthrow Fidel Castro. With the end of the Cold War and the demise of the Soviet Union, he thinks the time is right.
"The achievements of the Cuban people over the last 30 years in health care, literacy, agriculture and other areas of life are commendable", declared veteran peace activist Jack O'Dell in a statement released by the National Network on Cuba. "To attempt to disrupt this process by further tightening the blockade is unjust."
O'Dell, a leader of the Rainbow Coalition, added, "While Cuba's health care system has lowered the island's infant mortality rate to 10.7 per 1000 births, the rate here in
Washington has risen to 25 per 1000. It's time to end our government's obsession with Cuba and concentrate on the crisis here at home."
The Bush administration is apparently also opposed. President Bush vetoed a similar embargo-tightening measure last year. A State Department official, who asked not to be named, confirmed to the Guardian that the administration was still opposed to the "miltilateralisation" of the embargo and is already lobbying against the bill. [From the US Guardian.]