May 2, 2016 | By: Rep. Charles Rangel
I am pleased that the first U.S. cruise ship to make a voyage to Cuba in almost 40 years arrived in Havana, Cuba, this morning carrying 700 passengers, including Cuban Americans on board. This is an exciting development since my historic trip with President Barack Obama who led a small bipartisan delegation to the Island Nation. The last sitting U.S. President to visit Cuba before the Cold War was Calvin Coolidge in 1928, two years before I was born. I would have never imagined in 1995 when Fidel Castro visited Harlem that I would be traveling to Cuba with my President to meet with his brother, President Raul Castro. We reaffirmed our efforts to cement our new ties and push for ending the embargo. I am confident that both of our nations and citizens will benefit through the exchange of people, goods, and ideas.
I was fortunate to witness the excitement on the streets of Havana in December 2014, when President Obama first announced his plan to chart a new course in our diplomatic relationship with Cuba. As the sponsor of the Promoting American Agricultural and Medical Exports to Cuba Act, I had originally traveled to Havana with few other congressmen to explore how the United States could gain access to a miraculous drug that could cure ulcers. Because I had stayed an extra few days, I was able to report through multiple television interviews from Havana to the American audience how Cubans embraced the news of rekindling our ties.
The recent landmark visit by President Obama, which also included American entrepreneurs coupled with the Administration’s New Course in Cuba policy, has compelled us to take more concrete actions towards removing outdated barriers that are currently limiting opportunities for our country and people. As President Obama acknowledged, it is up to the U.S. Congress to lift the embargo which was first imposed in February 1962, and currently maintained through five statutes, including the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917, the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992, the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996, and most recently the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000. The current embargo is the most enduring trade embargo in modern history and shortchanges the American people from pursuing business opportunities in Cuba. In 2014, the United States was the eighth largest exporter to Cuba, accounting for just 3% of Cuba imports. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that the embargo costs our economy $1.2 billion per year in lost sales and exports,
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