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Senate Intel Bill Weakens Helms-Burton, Cuba Sanctions

UPDATE 15NOV13 – 10:25AM  — the Sec 108 amendment referenced in this 14NOV13 post may have been removed from the underlying text of the Intel Authorization bill, or a hold been placed on the measure until it happens. If that is the case, we will update our 14NOV13 post as soon as the new text is publicly available. 

UPDATE, 14NOV13, 6:30 PM EST — From the other Poblete, Yleem:

This is an overreach by the Senate Intel Committee. The fact they buried the repeal is a clear attempt to keep Chairman Menendez in the dark about a policy issue that falls squarely under the jurisdiction of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Senators Menendez and Corker, as well as Senator Rubio, who sits on both SFRC and Intel, need to strip this from the bill.

(Arlington, Virginia — 14NOV13, 3:14PM EST) The Senate Intelligence Committee recently published its proposed Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014.  We found this curious gem in it:

(A) REPEAL.—Section 108 of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act of 1996 (22 U.S.C. 6038) is repealed.

Section 108  is one of the key reporting sections of the Helms-Burton law. It requires, among other things, federal agencies reporting to the Congress on foreign government assistance to Cuba as well as what arms or military supplies have been purchased by the regime. There are also a reporting requirements for trafficking in property subject to U.S. certified claims, and a few other key provisions. They are designed to help implement the law and advance U.S. policy. Without information– that is, without requiring Executive Branch agencies to compile data to then submit the reports to Congress– there is no trigger for enforcement.

Looking at the context of this decision, Yleem and I would like to share just a few notables from the past few months:

  1. Had it not been for tremendous pressure from certain Members of Congress, the Obama Administration would have removed the Cuban regime from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, primarily because of Cuba’s role in “facilitating peace talks” between the Colombian government and the FARC (one of the terrorist groups they helped build, arm, train, support and that may now have ties to Iran’s proxy Hezbollah).
  2. “Cuban Five” spy, Rene Gonzalez, is cleared to return to Cuba.  So much for U.S. national security or the relatives of those Gonzalez conspired to murder in the Brothers to the Rescue shootdown.
  3. Visas for Cuban regime officials to travel to the U.S. to speak at conferences has been on the upsurge this year.  Also, officials from the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, D.C. allowed to travel beyond the 25-mile radius of their work and home, including to Miami.
  4. A surface combatant squadron of Russian navy ships was allowed to dock in Cuba without apparent objection from the U.S.– this, amidst the Snowden fallout.
  5. Panamanian authorities seize ship carrying weapons from Cuba to North Korea and what does Administration do?
  6. The Cuban regime was recently selected to the infamous UN Human Rights Council and the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations said nothing against this miscarriage– for that matter, could not name the other gross human rights violators that had been selected alongside Cuba.

It would be good to know who is behind the effort to repeal Section 108 of Helms-Burton and how it was inserted into the recently reported Senate Intel bill.  This language must have had input from various sources including the NSC and, possibly, the State Department. Whatever the reason, if the proposed text is allowed to become law, the Obama Administration and the Congress would essentially be weakening economic sanctions.

More to come.

S. 1681, Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014

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