For and against Punishing US Allies on Cuba: No Compromise with Europe, Argues a Florida Representative

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Recently the Clinton administration offered Europeans a compromise over the Libertad Act (Helms-Burton law). The European Union (EU) would suspend its complaint against the law for six months. In exchange, the administration would consult with Congress toward providing the president with waiver authority on Title IV, which denies US entry to any foreigner trafficking in illegally confiscated US property in Cuba.

Congress should oppose such a "compromise." It demonstrates lack of commitment to full implementation of the law. We must not jeopardize concrete tools for vague assurances and "feel good" promises from the Europeans. Congress must invoke its oversight responsibilities to ensure the force of law is not usurped by peripheral, extraneous negotiations. I have included provisions in the Foreign Policy Reform Act of 1997 (to be considered on the House floor in early June) that, among other things, call for strict reporting requirements on the implementation of sections of the Libertad Act.

The US must stand firm until definitive actions from the Europeans show they are committed to bringing an end to the suffering and oppression of the Cuban people, and until they stop prolonging the current situation on the island by helping to fill the coffers of the Castro regime. The fact is there is no basis to the EU complaint. This was confirmed during hearings of the Subcommittee on International Economic Policy and Trade when the merits were discussed from a foreign-policy, legal, and economic perspective. The EU complaint derives from one central argument: the "extraterritorial" application of the US trade embargo established in 1962 and codified in various sections of the Libertad Act. But international law has long recognized that each country has the right to choose the economic principles that will govern its relations with trading partners, including the right to maintain long-term trade and foreign policy. Thus the act falls well within our right: It merely supplements and enforces prior US policy and current US law. Furthermore, the application of punitive measures in Titles III and IV is within US boundaries - that is, it is merely an invocation of US sovereign rights. The US has jurisdiction to prescribe law with respect to activities of its nationals outside as well as within its territory. In addition, the US has jurisdiction to prescribe laws with respect to outside conduct that has a substantial effect within its own territory. …