Cuban-Americans are complaining that charitable U.S. donations for needy Cubans are not enough and should be supplemented by sales of humanitarian items to the island.
Hundreds of Cuban-Americans delivered that message Tuesday as they appealed for changes in the U.S. embargo against Cuba that would legalize the sale of food and medicine to the island.The petition-bearing, button-wearing Cuban-Americans, mostly from the Miami area, scoured Capitol Hill, taking their case to reporters and to congressional offices.
At present, food sales to Cuba are barred and licenses must be obtained for the sale of medicines and medical supplies. Bipartisan proposals in Congress to end the restrictions have been gaining momentum, but proponents of maintaining the status quo still appear to have the upper hand.
A bill before the Senate has 26 co-sponsors. Similar legislation on the House side has 112.
Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., said the process of change following the January visit of Pope John Paul II is under way in Cuba, pointing to the hundreds of prisoners who have been released.
Declaring that he does not want to see "the perpetuation of a dictatorship" in Cuba, Dodd said the United States can contribute to peaceful change by making humanitarian exceptions to the embargo.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuban-born Florida Republican, dismissed the embargo reform advocates as "Castro's puppets" who are "promoting the lies and propaganda of the regime." She noted that existing law permits generous U.S. donations of food and medicine to the island.