“Cuban officials repeatedly said this was the year to get it done, to unify the currency,” said Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) during a press conference at the U.S. Embassy in Havana.
But rocky relations between the US and Cuba aren’t necessarily new, and some people are foraging ahead despite mixed signals. Between new developments in Cuba’s economic zone and a US airline pulling flights from Cuba, the message from the markets is far from clear.
Senators Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) reintroduced a bill last week that would eliminate all restrictions on travel to Cuba. The bill, which had 8 cosponsors when it was first introduced in 2015, has the bipartisan support of 55 senators.
“As the administration is finalizing its Cuba policy review, it is important to show that a bipartisan majority in the Senate supports not only not rolling back the measures that President Obama took to expand travel, but to go even further and remove all restrictions,” James Williams, head of Engage Cuba, told el Nuevo Herald. Engage Cuba is a lobby group backed by companies and organizations that support the removal of sanctions on Cuba.
The congressional debate over the proposed bill that would fund agricultural exports to Cuba may come to an end soon because of a new addition to the legislature: a two percent fee on food products sold to Cuba that would pay for properties confiscated by the island’s government.
“We know there are a significant number of Cuban Americans who are aggrieved because they had their properties thieved years ago in the revolution,” said Arkansas Rep. Rick Crawford, who sponsored the bill.
“We have come out with a vehicle by which they actually receive compensation, which is a key component of the legislation,” Crawford said. “Every transaction will have a 2% excise fee that would be collected and administered to certified claimants through the Treasury Department.”
Miami Republican congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the first Cuban-American ever elected to Congress, has announced her intention to retire at the end of her term in 2018, after 28 years in Congress.
“It’s been such a delight and a high honor to serve our community for so many years and help constituents every day of the week,” Ros-Lehtinen told The Miami Herald on Sunday. “We just said, ‘It’s time to take a new step.’”
Republican Representative Roger Marshall of Kansas released an op-ed in The High Plains Journal reflecting on his recent three-day trip to Cuba with a congressional delegation that included representatives James Comer of Kentucky, Jack Bergman of Michigan, and Jason Lewis and Tom Emmer of Minnesota.
Marshall was pleased with the visit and talked about how the U.S.’s current policy of isolation has failed in Cuba. He said the 50-year-old embargo only serves to generate animosity toward the U.S. and to “arbitrarily limit” U.S. citizens chances to engage with Cubans.
Republican congressmen Roger Marshal of Kansas, Jack Bergman of Michigan, James Comer of Kentucky, and Tom Emmer and Jason Lewis of Minnesota met with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez on Monday, March 6 to discuss foreign relations between the U.S. and Cuba.
Cuban Foreign Minister Director Josefina Vidal and U.S. Deputy Director General Gustavo Machin were also in attendance.
This is the second U.S. delegation to visit the island during the Trump administration. Two weeks ago, Republican Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi was part of a congressional delegation that was welcomed by President Raul Castro at a three-day business forum to discuss relations and explore future business opportunities between the U.S. and Cuba.
The report, which was published by the U.S. State Department on Friday, is about the record of different countries in fighting the international drug trade. The narcotics control report hasn’t been made public since 2008.
The report’s findings may seem surprising because of the island’s close proximity to South American and Caribbean drug lanes, but the Castro regime has always been strict with drug crimes, and drug use on the island has reportedly always been low—a sharp contrast from the pre-revolution days.