[Congressional Record: May 13, 2002 (Senate)]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
SELLING FOOD TO CUBA
Mr. DORGAN. Mr. President, let me talk about two other issues
briefly. One is a letter I received last Friday from Secretary of State
Colin Powell. This relates to a decision by the State Department to
cancel the visas for Cubans coming to our country to buy additional
food. Since the hurricane, they have purchased over $70 million in
American food. That is available for them to purchase because I and my
colleague from Connecticut, Senator Dodd, and others changed the law to
allow food sales to Cuba. Strangely enough, they have to pay in cash
and do it through a French bank; nonetheless, they can finally buy
We ought never use food as a weapon, and we have done it for 40 years
with Cuba. That is over. They are now buying food from this country. We
had a group of people representing Alimport, including Pedro Alvarez
and others, coming to this country to buy food. They were coming, in
fact, to North Dakota and they were going to buy dried beans and wheat.
They were granted a visa by the State Department, and then immediately
that visa was revoked. I asked Secretary Powell, ``By what authority
was it revoked and why?''
Let me use a couple of charts to see what happened on this issue.
This is a news story about it:
A State Department official confirmed Wednesday that the
administration policy is not to encourage sales of food to
In the letter from Secretary Powell, he disavows that, but that is
what they told us: It is our policy not to encourage food sales to
Cuba. I said it is a brainless policy to decide you do not want to sell
food to Cuba; you ought to sell food to Cuba. We sell it to China, a
Communist country. We sell it to Vietnam, a Communist country. And we
are told we do not want to sell food to Cuba? Does anybody think Fidel
Castro has not eaten a meal along the way because we had an obstruction
on the sale of food to Cuba? No, it just hurts sick people, poor
people, and hungry people. This is what this policy has represented.
At a hearing last week when I raised this question with Secretary
Powell, he said: I have never heard of this policy not to encourage
food sales to Cuba. In fact, he said additional sales should be
encouraged so long as American farmers benefit.
The Farm Bureau said the cancellation of Mr. Alvarez's visa will
adversely affect the sale of corn, rice, wheat, poultry, soybeans,
lentils, and eggs, valued at $35 million.
I received a four-page letter from Secretary Powell. Frankly, it does
not answer any of the questions. It says Mr. Alvarez's visa was revoked
because of a 1985 then-President Ronald Reagan directive. He also said:
Mr. Alvarez was here once before and he lobbied to undermine the U.S.
embargo. I guess when he was here before, he said Cuba would like to
have a circumstance where they could buy food from American farmers.
The State Department considers that undermining America's interest.
Give me a break. Mr. Secretary, that does not undermine anything. I
hope the State Department and others will pay a little more attention
to the issue of terrorists getting bombs, not Cubans buying dried beans
The subcommittee which I chair is going to hold a hearing, and I will
ask the Assistant Secretary, Mr. Reich, to come to Congress and explain
who decided to revoke these visas.
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