US Reps, Farmers Visit Cuba
May. 29, 2000
HAVANA (AP) _ Arkansas lawmakers and rice farmers met Monday with Cuban officials amid moves in Washington to ease the four-decade trade embargo against this communist island.
``We have been very supportive of opening up trade with Cuba,'' U.S. Sen. Blanche Lambert Lincoln said after meeting with trade and agriculture officials in Havana.
``If you look over the past four decades, you will see those who have been most affected are the people of Cuba, not the government,'' the Arkansas Democrat said. There was little specific information on the delegation's agenda.
The 16-member delegation from Arkansas traveled to Havana as the U.S. House of Representatives debated legislation that would allow food and medicine to be sold to Cuba. A vote by the full House was expected next week.
The Senate overwhelmingly approved a similar trade measure last year, and the House Appropriations Committee approved the measure 35-24 earlier this month.
Some 220 House members signed a letter supporting an easing of the embargo, though there was fierce opposition from some Republicans.
``We feel like the embargo ... has not worked,'' said Rep. Marion Berry, a Democrat. Berry said that lifting the restrictions on food and medicine sales would benefit both the Cuban people and hard-hit Arkansas farmers seeking new markets.
Arkansas is the United States' No. 1 rice producer, as well as an important supplier of poultry, pork, and soybean.
During the visit to Cuba, members of the Arkansas delegation were to tour an agricultural cooperative, a poultry farm and a farmers' market. The group arrived in the capital, Havana, on Sunday night, and was to return to the United States on Wednesday.