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. …