Wednesday, September 10, 2003

The Bush administration, citing Cuba’s harsh crackdown on political dissent earlier this year, promised to veto a House-passed measure to ease travel and other restrictions on trade with the communist-ruled island.

“Providing a material benefit to a regime which only six months ago undertook the most significant act of political repression in the Americas in a decade strikes us as deeply unwise,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.

Less than 24 hours after the House’s Tuesday evening vote, the White House and State Department announced that Cuba was one of three nations that will face new U.S. economic sanctions for failing to curb “human trafficking,” including slave labor and international prostitution rings.

Cuba, Burma and North Korea all face the sanctions, which could include U.S. opposition to loans to these countries from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The United States already has sweeping sanctions in place on North Korea, Burma and Cuba, so the new ones should have minimal effect. An administration official told Reuters news agency that Mr. Bush’s announcement could translate into further travel restrictions, and may bring to an end some educational and cultural exchanges.

The announcement followed the release in June of the State Department’s annual “Trafficking in Persons Report” on the 800,000 to 900,000 people the United States estimates are smuggled across international borders each year, many of them forced into involuntary servitude.

The White House’s latest veto threat came a day after the House passed three amendments intended to roll back the Cuban-trade embargo.

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