Wednesday, September 30, 2009

House and Senate Cosponsors of Freedom to Travel Bills

Cosponsors of HR 874, Freedom to Travel Bill

161 are listed with the date they signed on; unofficially an additional 20 Representatives are reported to have agreed to cosponsor

text of bill can be seen at

Rep Abercrombie, Neil [HI-1] - 3/30/2009
Rep Alexander, Rodney [LA-5] - 5/4/2009
Rep Baird, Brian [WA-3] - 3/30/2009
Rep Baldwin, Tammy [WI-2] - 3/30/2009
Rep Berry, Marion [AR-1] - 3/30/2009
Rep Biggert, Judy [IL-13] - 3/30/2009
Rep Bishop, Sanford D., Jr. [GA-2] - 5/7/2009
Rep Bishop, Timothy H. [NY-1] - 3/30/2009
Rep Blumenauer, Earl [OR-3] - 3/30/2009
Rep Boozman, John [AR-3] - 3/30/2009
Rep Boswell, Leonard L. [IA-3] - 3/30/2009
Rep Boucher, Rick [VA-9] - 5/7/2009
Rep Brady, Robert A. [PA-1] - 3/30/2009
Rep Brown, Henry E., Jr. [SC-1] - 3/30/2009
Rep Capps, Lois [CA-23] - 3/30/2009
Rep Capuano, Michael E. [MA-8] - 3/30/2009
Rep Chaffetz, Jason [UT-3] - 3/30/2009
Rep Clarke, Yvette D. [NY-11] - 3/30/2009
Rep Clay, Wm. Lacy [MO-1] - 3/30/2009
Rep Cleaver, Emanuel [MO-5] - 3/30/2009
Rep Clyburn, James E. [SC-6] - 5/20/2009
Rep Cohen, Steve [TN-9] - 3/30/2009
Rep Conyers, John, Jr. [MI-14] - 3/30/2009
Rep Cooper, Jim [TN-5] - 3/30/2009
Rep Costa, Jim [CA-20] - 3/30/2009
Rep Costello, Jerry F. [IL-12] - 3/30/2009
Rep Courtney, Joe [CT-2] - 3/30/2009
Rep Crowley, Joseph [NY-7] - 3/30/2009
Rep Cummings, Elijah E. [MD-7] - 3/30/2009
Rep Davis, Danny K. [IL-7] - 4/30/2009
Rep Davis, Lincoln [TN-4] - 3/30/2009
Rep Davis, Susan A. [CA-53] - 4/22/2009
Rep DeFazio, Peter A. [OR-4] - 3/30/2009
Rep DeGette, Diana [CO-1] - 4/2/2009
Rep DeLauro, Rosa L. [CT-3] - 2/4/2009
Rep Dicks, Norman D. [WA-6] - 5/21/2009
Rep Doggett, Lloyd [TX-25] - 3/30/2009
Rep Doyle, Michael F. [PA-14] - 3/30/2009
Rep Driehaus, Steve [OH-1] - 5/13/2009
Rep Edwards, Donna F. [MD-4] - 2/4/2009
Rep Ehlers, Vernon J. [MI-3] - 3/30/2009
Rep Ellison, Keith [MN-5] - 3/30/2009
Rep Emerson, Jo Ann [MO-8] - 2/4/2009
Rep Eshoo, Anna G. [CA-14] - 3/30/2009
Rep Etheridge, Bob [NC-2] - 3/30/2009
Rep Farr, Sam [CA-17] - 2/4/2009
Rep Fattah, Chaka [PA-2] - 3/30/2009
Rep Filner, Bob [CA-51] - 3/30/2009
Rep Flake, Jeff [AZ-6] - 2/4/2009
Rep Frank, Barney [MA-4] - 3/30/2009
Rep Fudge, Marcia L. [OH-11] - 4/22/2009
Rep Gonzalez, Charles A. [TX-20] - 3/30/2009
Rep Gordon, Bart [TN-6] - 3/30/2009
Rep Grijalva, Raul M. [AZ-7] - 3/30/2009
Rep Gutierrez, Luis V. [IL-4] - 5/7/2009
Rep Hall, John J. [NY-19] - 7/9/2009
Rep Harman, Jane [CA-36] - 3/30/2009
Rep Herseth Sandlin, Stephanie [SD] - 5/7/2009
Rep Hinchey, Maurice D. [NY-22] - 3/30/2009
Rep Holden, Tim [PA-17] - 5/7/2009
Rep Holt, Rush D. [NJ-12] - 4/22/2009
Rep Honda, Michael M. [CA-15] - 3/30/2009
Rep Inslee, Jay [WA-1] - 5/7/2009
Rep Israel, Steve [NY-2] - 3/30/2009
Rep Jackson, Jesse L., Jr. [IL-2] - 3/30/2009
Rep Jackson-Lee, Sheila [TX-18] - 3/30/2009
Rep Johnson, Eddie Bernice [TX-30] - 3/30/2009
Rep Johnson, Henry C. "Hank," Jr. [GA-4] - 3/30/2009
Rep Johnson, Timothy V. [IL-15] - 3/30/2009
Rep Kagen, Steve [WI-8] - 3/30/2009
Rep Kanjorski, Paul E. [PA-11] - 5/7/2009
Rep Kaptur, Marcy [OH-9] - 3/30/2009
Rep Kildee, Dale E. [MI-5] - 4/28/2009
Rep Kilpatrick, Carolyn C. [MI-13] - 3/30/2009
Rep Kilroy, Mary Jo [OH-15] - 3/30/2009
Rep Kind, Ron [WI-3] - 3/30/2009
Rep Kucinich, Dennis J. [OH-10] - 3/30/2009
Rep Langevin, James R. [RI-2] - 5/14/2009
Rep Larsen, Rick [WA-2] - 3/30/2009
Rep Larson, John B. [CT-1] - 3/30/2009
Rep Lee, Barbara [CA-9] - 3/30/2009
Rep Levin, Sander M. [MI-12] - 5/20/2009
Rep Lewis, John [GA-5] - 4/30/2009
Rep Loebsack, David [IA-2] - 5/20/2009
Rep Lofgren, Zoe [CA-16] - 3/30/2009
Rep Lowey, Nita M. [NY-18] - 3/30/2009
Rep Lummis, Cynthia M. [WY] - 3/30/2009
Rep Lynch, Stephen F. [MA-9] - 3/30/2009
Rep Maloney, Carolyn B. [NY-14] - 3/30/2009
Rep Markey, Edward J. [MA-7] - 3/30/2009
Rep Matheson, Jim [UT-2] - 3/30/2009
Rep Matsui, Doris O. [CA-5] - 3/30/2009
Rep McCarthy, Carolyn [NY-4] - 3/30/2009
Rep McCollum, Betty [MN-4] - 3/30/2009
Rep McDermott, Jim [WA-7] - 3/30/2009
Rep McGovern, James P. [MA-3] - 2/4/2009
Rep Meeks, Gregory W. [NY-6] - 3/30/2009
Rep Michaud, Michael H. [ME-2] - 3/30/2009
Rep Miller, George [CA-7] - 3/30/2009
Rep Mollohan, Alan B. [WV-1] - 3/30/2009
Rep Moore, Dennis [KS-3] - 3/30/2009
Rep Moore, Gwen [WI-4] - 3/30/2009
Rep Moran, James P. [VA-8] - 3/30/2009
Rep Moran, Jerry [KS-1] - 2/4/2009
Rep Murtha, John P. [PA-12] - 5/7/2009
Rep Nadler, Jerrold [NY-8] - 3/30/2009
Rep Napolitano, Grace F. [CA-38] - 5/14/2009
Rep Neal, Richard E. [MA-2] - 3/30/2009
Rep Norton, Eleanor Holmes [DC] - 3/30/2009
Rep Oberstar, James L. [MN-8] - 3/30/2009
Rep Olver, John W. [MA-1] - 3/30/2009
Rep Ortiz, Solomon P. [TX-27] - 3/30/2009
Rep Pastor, Ed [AZ-4] - 3/30/2009
Rep Paul, Ron [TX-14] - 2/4/2009
Rep Payne, Donald M. [NJ-10] - 3/30/2009
Rep Peterson, Collin C. [MN-7] - 3/30/2009
Rep Pingree, Chellie [ME-1] - 3/30/2009
Rep Polis, Jared [CO-2] - 3/30/2009
Rep Pomeroy, Earl [ND] - 4/30/2009
Rep Price, David E. [NC-4] - 3/30/2009
Rep Rahall, Nick J., II [WV-3] - 5/14/2009
Rep Rangel, Charles B. [NY-15] - 3/30/2009
Rep Richardson, Laura [CA-37] - 5/6/2009
Rep Ross, Mike [AR-4] - 3/30/2009
Rep Roybal-Allard, Lucille [CA-34] - 5/14/2009
Rep Ruppersberger, C. A. Dutch [MD-2] - 5/7/2009
Rep Rush, Bobby L. [IL-1] - 4/2/2009
Rep Ryan, Tim [OH-17] - 3/30/2009
Rep Sanchez, Linda T. [CA-39] - 4/30/2009
Rep Sanchez, Loretta [CA-47] - 3/30/2009
Rep Schakowsky, Janice D. [IL-9] - 3/30/2009
Rep Schwartz, Allyson Y. [PA-13] - 3/30/2009
Rep Scott, David [GA-13] - 4/1/2009
Rep Scott, Robert C. "Bobby" [VA-3] - 5/12/2009
Rep Serrano, Jose E. [NY-16] - 3/30/2009
Rep Sestak, Joe [PA-7] - 7/30/2009
Rep Slaughter, Louise McIntosh [NY-28] - 3/30/2009
Rep Smith, Adam [WA-9] - 3/30/2009
Rep Snyder, Vic [AR-2] - 3/30/2009
Rep Speier, Jackie [CA-12] - 7/7/2009
Rep Stark, Fortney Pete [CA-13] - 3/30/2009
Rep Stupak, Bart [MI-1] - 5/21/2009
Rep Tanner, John S. [TN-8] - 3/30/2009
Rep Tauscher, Ellen O. [CA-10] - 3/30/2009
Rep Taylor, Gene [MS-4] - 5/7/2009
Rep Thompson, Bennie G. [MS-2] - 3/30/2009
Rep Thompson, Mike [CA-1] - 3/30/2009
Rep Tierney, John F. [MA-6] - 3/30/2009
Rep Towns, Edolphus [NY-10] - 3/30/2009
Rep Tsongas, Niki [MA-5] - 5/12/2009
Rep Van Hollen, Chris [MD-8] - 3/30/2009
Rep Velazquez, Nydia M. [NY-12] - 3/30/2009
Rep Walz, Timothy J. [MN-1] - 3/30/2009
Rep Waters, Maxine [CA-35] - 3/30/2009
Rep Watson, Diane E. [CA-33] - 3/30/2009
Rep Watt, Melvin L. [NC-12] - 5/7/2009
Rep Waxman, Henry A. [CA-30] - 3/30/2009
Rep Weiner, Anthony D. [NY-9] - 5/4/2009
Rep Welch, Peter [VT] - 3/30/2009
Rep Woolsey, Lynn C. [CA-6] - 3/30/2009
Rep Yarmuth, John A. [KY-3] - 3/30/2009

Cosponsors of S 428 32 are listed

Sen Barrasso, John [WY] - 2/23/2009
Sen Baucus, Max [MT] - 3/2/2009
Sen Bingaman, Jeff [NM] - 3/10/2009
Sen Boxer, Barbara [CA] - 3/10/2009
Sen Burris, Roland [IL] - 7/13/2009
Sen Cantwell, Maria [WA] - 3/30/2009
Sen Collins, Susan M. [ME] - 5/21/2009
Sen Conrad, Kent [ND] - 3/17/2009
Sen Crapo, Mike [ID] - 3/30/2009
Sen Dodd, Christopher J. [CT] - 2/12/2009
Sen Durbin, Richard [IL] - 3/2/2009
Sen Enzi, Michael B. [WY] - 2/12/2009
Sen Feingold, Russell D. [WI] - 3/3/2009
Sen Feinstein, Dianne [CA] - 2/26/2009
Sen Franken, Al [MN] - 9/14/2009
Sen Harkin, Tom [IA] - 3/2/2009
Sen Johnson, Tim [SD] - 3/6/2009
Sen Klobuchar, Amy [MN] - 5/11/2009
Sen Landrieu, Mary L. [LA] - 3/30/2009
Sen Leahy, Patrick J. [VT] - 3/6/2009
Sen Levin, Carl [MI] - 7/21/2009
Sen Lincoln, Blanche L. [AR] - 4/30/2009
Sen Lugar, Richard G. [IN] - 2/12/2009
Sen McCaskill, Claire [MO] - 4/29/2009
Sen Murray, Patty [WA] - 5/21/2009
Sen Pryor, Mark L. [AR] - 4/21/2009
Sen Reed, Jack [RI] - 3/12/2009
Sen Sanders, Bernard [VT] - 3/12/2009
Sen Tester, Jon [MT] - 8/5/2009
Sen Udall, Tom [NM] - 4/29/2009
Sen Webb, Jim [VA] - 4/21/2009
Sen Wyden, Ron [OR] - 2/25/2009

Sen Bennet, Michael F. [CO] - 3/11/2009(withdrawn - 3/30/2009)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Rep. Farr Predicts Passage of Travel Legislation

Overturning Cuba Travel Ban May Pass House This Year, Farr Says

By Fabiola Moura

Sept. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Legislation to end a ban on Americans traveling to Cuba has enough support in the U.S. House of Representatives to win approval by year-end, said Representative Sam Farr, a California Democrat.

The bill to let U.S. citizens resume travel to the Caribbean island except in times of war or cases in which they face imminent danger has 181 votes in the House and needs 218 to pass, said Farr, a co-sponsor of the legislation. The plan is backed by travel groups such as the United States Tour Operators Association and the National Tour Association and human rights groups such as the Washington Office on Latin America and has been helped by President Barack Obama’s election, he said.

“It is believed we can get to this before the end of the year,” Farr, 68, said in an interview in New York. “We haven’t had a policy about Cuba. We’ve had policies about getting votes in Florida and Obama changed that by getting those votes.”

The U.S. ended restrictions on Sept. 3 on Cuban-Americans travel and money transfers to relatives in Cuba. The new rules also allow U.S. telecommunications companies to provide service in Cuba for mobile telephone, satellite radio and television. Exceptions to the 1962 trade embargo on communist Cuba include $500 million per year in agricultural exports, Farr said.

“If you are a potato, you can get to Cuba very easily,” he said. “But if you are a person, you can’t, and that is our problem.”


Obama is under pressure from Latin American leaders to end the trade embargo to help improve relations in the region. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will ask Obama to end the embargo during the United Nations General Assembly this week, spokesman Marcelo Baumbach said Sept. 17.

Obama announced in April he would lift travel limits for Cuban-Americans visiting family in Cuba. At the same time, Representatives Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Mario Diaz-Balart, both Florida Republicans, issued a statement that the president had made “unilateral concessions to the dictatorship” that would “embolden it to further isolate, imprison and brutalize pro- democracy activists.”

Cuba’s former President Fidel Castro, who handed power to his brother Raul Castro last year, called on Obama to completely lift the trade embargo.

White House officials have said there are no plans to lift the embargo. At the same time, the administration is undertaking a full review of policy toward Cuba with the goal of advancing “the cause of freedom” in the country less than 100 miles (160 kilometers) from the coast of Florida, Daniel Restrepo, a special assistant to Obama, said in April.

March Proposal

A group of House and Senate lawmakers proposed in March ending restrictions to allow all U.S. citizens and residents to travel to Cuba. Farr said the legislation, known as the “Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act,” also has enough votes to clear the Senate, where Senator Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, and Republican Senator Michael Enzi of Wyoming introduced the legislation.

“There’s a lot more openness in the Congress,” Geoff Thale, program director in the Washington Office on Latin America, said in an interview in New York. “Support is building. The travel industry and business community are not just formally in support but actively engaged. That’s why I think we’re going to see a difference.”

Senator Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat who is of Cuban descent and sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, has vowed to fight the easing of travel restrictions.

Philip Peters, a vice president and Cuba expert at the Lexington Institute, a public policy research group in Arlington, Virginia, said proponents of the bill may succeed in winning congressional approval as public opinion grows among Americans that U.S. rules on Cuba aren’t in line with much of the country’s foreign policy.

‘Good Shot’

“They’ve got a good shot,” Peters said in an interview. “Certainly right now they’re in striking distance and they’ve got plenty of time left in the session.”

Ending the travel ban may lead as many as 1 million Americans to visit the island every year, Lisa Simon, president of the National Tour Association, known as NTA, said in an interview. It would also help push forward talks on human rights issues, Thale said.

“We’ve had a policy for 50 years of isolating Cuba and it hasn’t done anything about the human rights situation,” Thale said. “I don’t think there is some magic solution. I don’t think ending the travel ban will cause Fidel to say let’s have elections, let’s release all the political prisoners tomorrow. What it will do is open the process of dialogue.”

Obama’s administration has been showing a “gradual relaxation and diplomatic opening” toward Cuba, Thale said. He cited the government’s decision to reinitiate talks on migration and direct mail, and also to put down the billboard operated by the U.S. government outside its special interests section in Havana, which he said often displayed anti-Cuba messages.

To contact the reporter on this story: Fabiola Moura in New York at fdemoura@bloomberg.netJoshua Goodman in Rio de Janeiro at;
Last Updated: September 21, 2009 16:47 EDT


my comment

This useful article does not discuss the role of the White House in passage of legislation to end travel restrictions.

By implication, but not by explicit statement, the President will not follow the Bush policy of threatening to veto a travel bill. (Secretary Clinton did testify that they would not veto a bill to end the embargo.)

The question is whether House Committees with jurisdiction and key Senators will allow the legislation to proceed without a signal from President Obama that this is consistent with his foreign policy.

The signal could be verbal to the House and Senate leadership, or it could be by example. The President has complete authority to grant general licenses for non-tourist travel for educational, cultural, humanitarian, religious and other people-to-people purposes.

When he declines to use this authority and leaves in place a policy imposed by George Bush in 2004, he is sending exactly the opposite signal and missing an opportunity to ease the way to larger reform.

In Castro Country, Giving a Concert for Peace (Washington Post)

Cuban Exiles Decry Event, but Leading Latin Music Acts Perform Before Hundreds of Thousands in Havana

By William Booth
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, September 21, 2009

HAVANA, Sept. 20 -- Rock-and-roll diplomacy came to the communist isle on a smoldering afternoon, as hundreds of thousands of Cubans filled the Plaza of the Revolution on Sunday and sang along to a dozen international musical acts led by the Colombian singer and peace activist Juanes.

The free "Peace without Borders" concert was criticized by hard-line Cuban exiles in Miami as a propaganda coup for the Castro brothers, and that it might have been. But for thousands of young Cubans, it was a rare treat to hear a lineup of global Latin music stars, such as Olga Tanon of Puerto Rico and Miguel Bosé of Spain.

Under the watchful gaze of a huge mural of Ernesto "Che" Guevara, and beneath the socialist slogan "Always Toward Victory!" on the side of the Ministry of Interior building, there was no trouble from the mostly young crowd. Many were dressed in white, in keeping with the peaceful vibe.

From the stage, framed by giant posters of a white dove, musicians offered hopeful but admittedly vague appeals for change, solidarity and, of course, peace. Bosé told the crowd that "the greatest dream we can live is to dream the dream of peace." He also announced that there were more than a million people in the square, though there were no official estimates.

Tanon shouted that she brought greetings from Miami -- home of many Cuban exiles who live in opposition to the Cuban government -- and no one in the crowd booed, but instead whistled and cheered.

The United States has pursued a policy of economic embargo and diplomatic freeze against Cuba for almost 50 years, hoping to topple the government, to no avail. Despite promises by President Obama, change in the U.S.-Cuba relationship has been slow in coming.

In an interview aired Sunday on the Spanish-language network Univision, Obama acknowledged that the concert would only go so far. "I certainly don't think it hurts U.S.-Cuban relations," he said. "I wouldn't overstate the degree that it helps."

The plaza is iconic as the scene of some of Fidel Castro's biggest rallies and longest speeches, though he has not been seen in public for almost three years, after intestinal surgery. Anti-Castro Cuban exiles in Miami have voiced heated opposition to the concert, saying it only served to support the government here, which would milk the event for publicity even as it imprisons hundreds of political dissidents.

Because of his participation, Juanes has received death threats. But some of the pressure on him eased when, earlier this month, 24 of the 75 Cuban opposition leaders arrested in a 2003 crackdown on dissent signed a letter saying the show must go on.

"We came to Cuba with love. We have overcome fear to be with you, and we hope that you too can overcome it," Juanes told the masses. "All the young people, from Miami in the United States and in all the cities, must understand the importance of turning hate into love."

More than 100 buses could be counted bringing young people to the concert. "This is the best concert to come to Cuba in, like, 50 years," said Yeilene Fernandez, a student at the University of Havana who was dancing with friends.

Sitting in his hotel room on the eighth floor of the Hotel Nacional the night before the show, Juanes was typing out messages for his Twitter followers. He was wearing a silver crucifix, jeans and a T-shirt. "It's important to do this. I know this in my heart," he said. "Our region, Latin America, is very complicated right now. We're all going our separate ways because of our ideologies. It's time to change our minds, to do something beyond politics, for young people."

Juanes had previously met with Obama administration officials, and being a 17-time Latin Grammy winner who has become a kind of roving diplomat in Latin America, he got to see Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. She gave her blessing to his participation in the concert.

"We asked what they thought, and they said, 'Go ahead.' She was very positive," he said. "Me, I am Colombian, so I didn't need to ask permission. But we did need permission for all our staff, and they said sure."

Juanes said he asked some artists to come, "but they were afraid. Latin artists, we live in Miami, and when you live in Miami, anything to do with Cuba is always a challenge. Some people in Miami are against anything to do with Cuba. Some are in the middle. And the young people, they definitely support cultural exchange."

Next up in that exchange: The New York Philharmonic is coming to play a series of concerts at the Teatro Amadeo Roldan in Havana at the end of October.

"I see an increase in these cultural exchanges, and I think it's healthy, it's a step in the right direction," said Bill Richardson, governor of New Mexico, in an interview. He traveled this month to Cuba to discuss trade issues with the government.

In Havana on Sunday, those who were not at the Plaza of the Revolution watched the concert on rickety old TV sets in airless living rooms** -- or sat in their front courtyards to catch the breeze and listened to the show on the radio.

The artists performed free and covered the cost of shipping stage and sound equipment from Miami for the mega-concert. The Cuban government provided logistical and technical support. Juanes insisted that the signal from the show is free to use, download or broadcast anywhere in the world.

Juanes performed his first "Peace without Borders" concert on the frontier between Colombia and Venezuela last year during a time of heightened animosity between the countries. He said he would like to perform a third peace concert at the border between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. A vicious battle between street dealers and drug cartels, fighting among themselves and against federal troops, has left more than 1,600 people dead this year, making Juarez the most violent city in the world.

Juanes said: "I am from Colombia. I have no idea what it means to live in peace."

** The author has obviously not spent a lot of time in Cuban living rooms or watched many televisions there.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Former US Ambassador Sees Movement to End Embargo

Ex-ambassador: Jacksonville should get ready for US-Cuban trade
Florida Times-Union - September 16

By David Bauerlein /, (904) 359-4581

Jacksonville should prepare for a future boom in trade between the United States and Cuba because "change is in the air" regarding the decades-old embargo that has stifled interaction between the countries, a former U.S. ambassador to Bolivia said Tuesday.

V. Manuel Rocha, who is senior adviser on international business at Foley & Lardner LLP, said it's not realistic to predict how many more years the embargo will remain in place.

But he said there are changes occurring in both the U.S. and Cuba that favor the U.S. eventually lifting the embargo that dates back to the 1950s.

"There is a set of forces moving in a direction that should give you a sense that something is going to happen," Rocha said in a speech at Foley & Lardner's office in Jacksonville.

Rocha said it wouldn't necessarily be better for U.S. businesses if Cuba were to change its communist government. He said the current leadership of Cuba wants to ensure a "successor" form of government so future leaders maintain a connection with the revolution that brought the Communist Party to power.

He said that scenario would be comparable to how the U.S. has dealt with Communist Party-led China and Vietnam, whose top trading partners are the U.S.

He said the other alternative for Cuba would entail a tumultuous "transition" from the Communist Party to another form of government. He compared that possibility to the turmoil that occurred after the break-up of the Soviet Union.

"There are more McDonald's in 'successor' China than in 'transition' Russia because of the stability" in China, he said.

Cuba's top trading partner for exports is China, accounting for about 28 percent of Cuban products shipped abroad, according to the Central Intelligence Agency's World Factbook. Canada is second with about 25 percent of Cuba's exports followed by Spain at about 7 percent, Netherlands at 5 percent and Iran at 4 percent.

Cuba gets 32 percent of its imports from Venezuela, 11.8 percent from China, 10.6 percent from Spain, about 7 percent from Canada and 6.6 percent from the U.S. The imports from the U.S. are for certain goods exempted from the embargo.

Rocha said Jacksonville officials should be planning for more future trade with Cuba and identify what products the city wants to target for shipment through Jacksonville's port, and then make contact with those manufacturers. He said the cities that establish those relationships in advance will be able to capitalize on increased trade.

"You don't necessarily have to take big steps," he said.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Reports of Governor Richardson's Visit, Press Conference Video

In Cuba, Richardson says US travel ban should end

Associated Press Writer

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said Wednesday that he's just a governor on a trade mission and carries no message from the U.S. government as he visits Cuba this week. But he does plan to report his impressions to President Barack Obama.

Richardson spoke outside Havana while visiting Ernest Hemingway's former home, where he donated a replica of a telephone used by Hemingway to curators on behalf of his state. He said all U.S. citizens should be able to visit such cultural gems.

"I think enhancing cultural and artistic and educational ties is a prelude to diplomatic and commercial ties. It always happens that way," Richardson told The As
ociated Press.

"I'm for enhanced tourism travel for Americans." Richardson said that travel should go beyond the so-called people-to-people educational and cultural contacts promoted by the Bill Clinton administration.

Richardson insisted he is not in Cuba on Washington's behalf and is not bringing any message from the U.S. government. But he is meeting with senior Cuban officials, including a scheduled encounter Thursday with Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and a Monday meeting with Ricardo Alarcon, president of parliament.

So far, everyone has brought up the U.S. embargo and other aspects of U.S. policy, Richardson said, without elaborating.

"I'm not an envoy of the (Obama) administration. I'm carrying no message. I'm here as a governor seeking agricultural trade," he said.

"Obviously I do plan to submit my impressions to the administration after I conclude," he said. "I will do that as a citizen and as a governor. They're my impressions alone."
As a congressman, Richardson secured the release of three Cuban political prisoners during talks with then-President Fidel Castro in Havana in 1996. As U.N. ambassador in 1997, he held talks on terrorism with then-Foreign Minister Roberto Robaina.

Richardson supported Obama's declaration during last year's U.S. presidential campaign that he would be open to meeting current President Raul Castro without preconditions. The governor also has opposed lifting the U.S. embargo, while advocating negotiations with Cuba to promote human rights.

The Obama administration has relaxed restrictions on Cuban Americans' travel and money transfers to family on the island. Most U.S. citizens cannot visit — technically, the U.S. Treasury Department bars them from spending money in Cuba — in tandem with the U.S. embargo imposed in 1962 to weaken Cuba's Communist government.

The U.S. and Cuba also are resuming talks on migration and direct mail, but they have sparred over a U.S. suggestion that Havana release its political prisoners. Cuba insists that any dialogue have no preconditions.

Richardson and state Cabinet officials are promoting exports of New Mexico beef, corn, wheat, potatoes and apples. Despite the embargo, U.S. states can sell agricultural and certain other products to Cuba, though sales on credit are prohibited.

To promote cultural ties, New Mexico will inaugurate an exhibition of Cuban modern art next week.


NM Gov. cheers US, Cuban openness to better ties

By WILL WEISSERT (AP) – 1 hour ago

HAVANA — The U.S. and Cuba need time to reverse nearly a half-century of bad blood, but both sides are more open to doing so than they have been in years, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said Friday.

A Democrat and former top U.S. diplomat who knows ex-President Fidel Castro personally, Richardson said that he would like to facilitate dialogue between the communist government and the Cuban-American exile community — but has no interest in being a special U.S. envoy tasked with repairing relations with Cuba.

"There is a good atmosphere. It's the best atmosphere I've seen for an improvement," Richardson told a news conference at the historic Hotel Nacional. "What is needed is concrete steps from both sides. It's very important that we build more confidence in each other before we tackle the bold, divisive issues."

Richardson did not see Fidel or his younger brother, current President Raul Castro, but met twice with Ricardo Alarcon, the head of Cuba's parliament, as well as officials in the Foreign Relations and Tourism Ministries before leaving the island Friday after a four-day visit.

Fidel Castro did send him a note containing a "positive message," however. "He just basically said 'Hello,'" said Richardson, who refused to comment further.

The governor said Washington and Havana aren't ready to discuss lifting the 47-year-old American trade embargo or the release of political prisoners on the island.

Instead, the U.S. government should better solidify President Barack Obama's decision to ease restrictions on Cuban-Americans who want to travel or send money to Cuba, allow more American business leaders, athletes, artists and academics to come to this country, let Cuban biotechnology products be sold on the U.S. market and permit Cubans to attend scientific and business conferences in the United States.

Cuba should allow its citizens to travel to the U.S. with fewer restrictions and fees, accept Washington's proposal to let diplomats from both countries travel more freely in each other's territories and open a dialogue with Cuban-Americans, Richardson said.

"I did raise these issues with Cuban officials. They are considering some steps," he said.
Richardson said the economic meltdown and the health care debate have distracted U.S. officials, but "the United States needs to pay more attention to the Cuban issue."
"On the Cuban side, I note a lack of flexibility in their positions," he said. "There needs to be reciprocity when one side takes action."

The Obama White House has loosened restrictions on family travel and remittances but suggested it would like to see Cuba respond with small political or economic reforms — calls Havana has ignored.

Richardson said a wild card could be Cuban-Americans, who are divided between support for the U.S. embargo and hopes that the relationship between both countries will improve. He said he "would be happy to broker" dialogue between the Cuban government and Cuban exiles in the U.S.

"This should not be a substitute for government-to-government talks," he said. "But I believe if there is going to be a solution to normalization of the relationship between Cuba and the United States, Cuban-Americans must play a role and will play a role."

The declared purpose of Richardson's visit was to promote trade for his state, but he said he would present a report about the situation in Cuba to Obama administration officials.
As a congressman, Richardson secured the 1996 release of three Cuban political prisoners during talks with Castro in Havana. As U.N. ambassador a year later, he held discussions about terrorism with then Cuban Foreign Minister Roberto Robaina.

Obama had tapped Richardson to be his commerce secretary but the governor withdrew his name from consideration amid an investigation into how lucrative New Mexico bond work went to one of his large political donors.

Richardson refused to confirm or comment on reports published Thursday that the U.S. Justice Department will not pursue criminal charges against him, saying only, "I'm not talking about that."


Videos of Richardson press conference;cbsnewsMainColumnArea.0


Hará recomendaciones a Obama, informa en La Habana el gobernador estadunidense

Discutió en Cuba plan de acciones recíprocas para normalizar vínculos, dice Bill Richardson

Gerardo Arreola

La Habana, 28 de agosto. El gobernador de Nuevo México, Bill Richardson, informó hoy a la prensa que discutió aquí con autoridades cubanas un plan de acciones recíprocas para normalizar las relaciones entre Estados Unidos y Cuba y que reportará su viaje y hará recomendaciones al presidente Barack Obama.

Richardson concluyó una estancia de cinco días en la isla sin hablar con los hermanos Castro, pero dijo que apreció un ambiente muy bueno, el mejor que he visto en muchos años, para arreglar el conflicto de medio siglo y que su viaje fue muy productivo.

Muy cauto y buscando precisión en la mayoría de sus respuestas, el veterano negociador demócrata dijo que vino a Cuba como gobernador de Nuevo México, no como representante de la administración Obama.

Además, subrayó que no es necesario un enviado especial de Washington para Cuba y que no cree que él mismo vaya a tener un papel en el proceso. Es asunto del Departamento de Estado.

Richardson habló dos veces con Ricardo Alarcón, líder del Parlamento, experto en las relaciones con Estados Unidos e integrante del poderoso Buró Político del Partido Comunista.

Formalmente no fueron reuniones entre gobiernos, pero sí el contacto de mayor rango político que hayan tenido ambos países durante la gestión de Obama.

Richardson advirtió que cualquier solución tomará tiempo y será difícil: Cincuenta años de mala relación no se pueden resolver en un año. Pero agregó que Alarcón le dijo que los cubanos están considerando el plan.

El plan consiste en que, antes de entrar a temas de fondo, como el bloqueo económico y la base naval de Guantánamo, las dos naciones tendrían que dar pasos humanitarios: Estados Unidos debería poner en práctica las medidas anunciadas por Obama en abril pasado (como la liberación de viajes y las remesas de los cubanos emigrados), permitir los intercambios deportivos, culturales, científicos, académicos y de negocios, así como los viajes de los estadunidenses a la isla.

Cuba debería eliminar las restricciones burocráticas y las altas tarifas que frenan los viajes de sus ciudadanos a Estados Unidos, aceptar una propuesta de Washington para que tengan mayor movilidad los diplomáticos de ambos países e iniciar un diálogo informal con los cubanoestadunidenses.

Richardson evitó responder directamente a una pregunta sobre quiénes exactamente serían los interlocutores de La Habana entre la emigración cubana en Estados Unidos, pero reconoció que antes de venir a la isla se reunió con sus amigos de esa comunidad que están en la política.

Aceptó que con Alarcón habló de la propuesta cubana de intercambiar opositores presos en la isla por los cinco agentes cubanos encarcelados en Estados Unidos, pero que el énfasis estuvo en los citados pasos humanitarios.

Ahora el problema principal es que Estados Unidos tiene otras prioridades y tendría que prestar más atención a Cuba y América Latina, mientras que en la isla falta flexibilidad y debería haber más reciprocidad hacia las medidas que tome Washington, señaló el gobernador estadunidense.

Indicó que estaba muy satisfecho del alto nivel al que fue recibido aquí (un vicecanciller y otros funcionarios equivalentes, además de Alarcón).

Dijo que de antemano sabía que no hablaría con Raúl o Fidel Castro, pero que el ex mandatario le hizo llegar el jueves por la noche un mensaje personal.