Berry appeared with Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., and other members of the Cuba Working Group, a bipartisan group of 40 House members, at a Capitol press conference. Most of the members said the U.S. policy of trying to isolate Cuba militarily and economically is not working.
“For over 40 years, our policy toward Cuba has yield no results,” said Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake, a Republican. “Castro hasn’t held free and fair elections, he hasn’t improved human rights and he hasn’t stopped preaching his hate for democracy and the United States.”
Berry, a Democrat, called the American policy of trade sanctions against Cuba a “40-year failure.” He said trade with Cuba would hasten democratic reforms in the island nation and provide a significant economic benefit in Arkansas. A study from the Cuba Policy Foundation said that trade with Cuba could inject more than $503 million into the Arkansas economy.
“It is rare in politics to encounter ‘win-win’ situations,” he noted. “When they appear, it is critical to capitalize on them quickly. Clearly, ending trade sanctions against Cuba is a ‘win-win’ and for the sake of the people of Cuba and the people of Arkansas, I urge the Administration to act quickly,” Berry said.
Berry also asked President Bush to consider his own statement about trade with China last year, in formulating his Cuban trade policy. In May 2001, President Bush said, “Societies that open to commerce across their borders will open to democracy within their borders, not always immediately, and not always smoothly, but in good time.”
“I agree with President Bush that free trade makes a society more likely to accept and implement democratic reforms, and I call on the Bush Administration to implement this philosophy without delay and end trade sanctions against Cuba,” Berry said.
The president, meanwhile, has indicated he isn’t budging from his hard-line Cuban policy.
Asked if former President Jimmy Carter’s visit to Cuba had made for changed relations, Bush said, “It doesn’t complicate my foreign policy, because I haven’t changed my foreign policy.”
Rep. Emerson, who represents rice growers in the Missouri Bootheel, said she was troubled by the comments of other administration officials on relations with Cuba.
She quoted Otto Reich, assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere, as saying in a recent speech that “We will not throw a lifeline to save a regime that is sinking under the weight of its own historic failures.”
“Instead,” said Rep. Emerson, “its seems to some that he and others would rather let the American farmer and businessman sink under the weight of our government’s own failure to admit that food and medicine don’t work as weapons of foreign policy.
“Allowing the sale of food and medicine is a true lifeline – for American farmers, American business and Cuban people who need to see, touch and feel American democracy. Surely, a policy of engagement and a strong presence can accomplish all of this and more.”