[Congressional Record: May 1, 2002 (Senate)]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[ ... ]
This is something that I raised with Secretary of State Colin Powell
yesterday in an appropriations hearing. It also has to do with trade.
I fought for over 3 years on the floor of the Senate and was finally
successful last year to make it legal again to sell food to Cuba. For
40 years we have had an embargo; we couldn't sell a thing to Cuba. We
could not even sell food or medicine. My contention is that is
basically immoral for us to use food as a weapon. We sell food to
Communist China. We sell food to Communist Vietnam. But for 40 years we
couldn't sell food to Cuba.
So I kicked and scratched for a long while with some of my
colleagues. I was able to get that aspect of the embargo changed. Just
last year, we were able to get it changed so we can actually sell food
Cuba had a hurricane recently that caused a great deal of damage, and
they need food. They are offering to buy it, and to pay cash. Cuba has
now purchased $70 million worth of food from the United States in
A fellow named Pedro Alvarez heads a group called Alimport, which is
the Cuban agency that buys food. He was going to come to this country
and inspect some facilities, visit a number of agricultural states,
including coming to my State of North Dakota. They were prepared to buy
wheat and dried beans, I understand.
The State Department issued him a visa. He applied for and was given
a visa by our interest section for Cuba to come to the United States.
Yet abruptly, the visa was revoked.
I am trying to find out why the visa was revoked. My staff called the
State Department. The State Department said: Well, it is our policy not
to encourage food sales to Cuba.
Yesterday, I asked the Secretary of State: Is that your policy?
The Secretary of State said: It is news to me. I have no such policy.
Someone deep in the bowels of the State Department apparently defined
for himself the State Department's policy, and did not bother to check
with Secretary Powell.
I asked for an investigation. Why do you revoke the visa issued to
someone who wants to come to our country to buy wheat, dried beans,
corn and eggs? Who decided that somehow that threatens our country?
Where does that kind of thinking come from?
I expect I will probably hear from Secretary Powell in the next day
or two. I hope so. I wrote a rather lengthy letter last week. I had the
opportunity to question him before an Appropriations Committee hearing
At a time when agricultural prices have collapsed and our family
farmers are hanging on by their fingertips trying to make a go of it,
we have some folks somewhere behind the drapes inside the State
Department deciding they really don't want to sell food to Cuba and
they don't want someone coming up here from Cuba to buy dried beans. If
there is some perceived threat about that, I wish someone would inform
me and the Senate.
That is one more example of the strange approach that people take to
international trade. We ought never, under any circumstance, use food
as a weapon. It is immoral. Does anyone think Fidel Castro has ever
missed a meal because this country had an embargo for 40 years on the
shipment of food to Cuba? Does anyone think he has ever missed
breakfast, lunch, or dinner? No. Those sorts of things hurt poor
people, sick people, and hungry people. They don't hurt Fidel Castro.
I have personally written to Mr. Alvarez saying: I am inviting you to
this country. I have written to the Secretary of State saying: I want
you to provide visas to the people who want to come up and buy food
from our family farmers.
That is just one more piece in a long, sorry saga of international
trade that doesn't represent our country's interests.
I am very interested in having robust, strong expanded, trade. I am
very interested in finding ways by which we can force open foreign
markets. But the record is abysmal. We agreed to NAFTA, GATT, and we do
United States-Canada agreements.
The fact is that very little has changed in the behavior of China,
Europe, Japan, and other countries. Our country leads the way in
unilateral behavior in international trade that says our market is
open. Our country ought to use its leverage to say we are going to hold
up a mirror. If your market isn't open to us, you go sell your
trinkets, trousers, and cars somewhere else. And, as soon as you
understand that other marketplaces don't offer you what our market
does, you come back and agree to open up your marketplace to American
businesses and American workers. Then we will have reciprocal trade
that is fair to both sides, that is multilateral, and that is
beneficial to us, and the countries with whom we do trade agreements.
I believe we are about ready to have the chairman and ranking member
I am very happy to offer an amendment as soon as they are interested
in coming. I think they have lengthy opening statements. I will also
have an opening statement at some point to amplify these remarks. But I
am anxious to offer an amendment this afternoon. I am anxious to have a
vote on an amendment, for that matter. If they come and offer their
managers' package, give their opening statements, and then let me be
recognized to offer an amendment, we could debate the amendment for an
hour and then we could have a vote today. I would be happy to do that.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The deputy majority leader.
Mr. REID. Mr. President, the Senator from North Dakota has been very
patient and persuasive, as he always is. He has been in the Chamber on
several different occasions wishing to speak. He has a lot to say about
this legislation. He has indicated he has a number of amendments. I
have spoken to him about some of the amendments. They sound pretty good
The manager, Senator Baucus, the chairman of the Finance Committee,
should be in the Chamber soon to lay down that managers' package. I was
in touch with him just a few minutes ago. But he is not here now.
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