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Sam F.
Democrat CA 20

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  • Launch of the Bipartisan Cuba Working Group

    by Representative Sam Farr

    Posted on 2015-12-17

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    FARR. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman and congratulate her on probably being the Member of Congress who has been to Cuba more times than anyone else, has done more to lift the nuances of the embargo, and to, essentially, start the end of the cold war that we faced in Cuba.

    For Cubans today, I would like to say Feliz Cumpleanos. For the Americans, I would like to also say Happy Birthday. And I would like to include that as a Happy Birthday to my wife, Shary Farr, whose birthday is today, because her biggest wish has been that she could go to Cuba before she dies. And guess what? Now she can go. This is a great birthday present to her that she will be able to visit Cuba, after 55 years of failed foreign policy where our government prohibited American citizens from traveling to Cuba.

    {time} 1600 So with this lift, I would also like to thank President Obama, and I would like to thank President Raul Castro. I think what you saw were two nation leaders getting together and doing what nation leaders should do: figure out how to get along rather than how to fight.

    What we have done in Congress has not progressed, not helped.

    I would like to have, Barbara, your comments on this, too, because we imposed legislatively in law these embargoes that say: Americans, you can't travel; Americans, you can't trade; Americans, you can't use your dollars; Americans, you can't use your credit cards; Banks, you can't do it; Farmers, you can't sell.

    We have created all these barriers, and the Presidents of each country don't--at least the President of our country doesn't have the ability to just use his administrative authorities as he has in being able to do some wonderful things. Fifty-five years of frozen policy has changed. You can't do it all and change everything in 12 months.

    We have been able to open up embassies for the first time. It was delightful to be in Washington, D.C., last night at this celebratory time of the year, holiday season, and have the Cuban Embassy invite all the Members of Congress, staff, and people over to their Embassy for a holiday party and bring one of the best Cuban music groups--exciting, beautiful music--to celebrate all this. We couldn't have done that a year ago. We couldn't have done it a year ago today. But today is the day that will go down in Cuban history as the day that they remember the U.S. beginning to break the cold war relationships.

    We have sent Secretary Kerry. And did you know that Secretary Kerry's visit to Cuba was the first Secretary of State visit to Cuba in over 70 years? We have begun bilateral discussions. We have created a bilateral steering commission, and Secretary Kerry was instrumental in getting both countries to sit down and discuss the differences in economic policy, in social policy, and in cultural issues. They have already done some work on joint environmental issues.

    Cuba is so close to American soil that the environmental policies in our country affect them and vice versa. It would be great to have them develop some really good ocean standards and marine standards as we are trying to do along the Florida coast.

    They have already done some work with law enforcement, of integrating information and trading, particularly on narcotics trafficking and things like that, and opened up mail service from the United States.

    [[Page H9685]] They have lifted what they could on the travel ban. Americans are allowed to go. Today I am real excited to learn that both countries have agreed to begin commercial air service, scheduled air service. You have had to go on charter flights. I believe your city of Oakland, California, is one of those cities that is designated as a scheduled airline airport so people can fly directly from Oakland, California, to Havana to visit.

    We have opened up a claims process, and we need to do more particularly in Cuba on human rights processes. On global health, Cuba and the United States got together jointly to help the Haitians with the critical needs that Haiti has in their delivery of medicine and care to that really poor country so devastated by the earthquake.

    Mr. Speaker, what I am very excited about, frankly, is that Cuba has hosted probably one of the most important discussions going on in the world, and that is how to end the longest revolutionary war, the best financed revolutionary war in the history of the world, which is the FARC, supported by all the drugs in Colombia; and the Colombian Government and the FARC rebels have been sitting down in Cuba and working out a very complicated ``how do we end a war,'' ``how do we get you back into civil society,'' ``how do we stop the violence.'' With that, and with the recognition of Cuba, it is the first time that an entire hemisphere, the higher hemisphere in this world, has been in diplomatic relations and peaceful relations with no country fighting another country within the hemisphere. What a great model for the rest of the world, and what a great model to show those countries in conflict, internal conflict, that if FARC and Colombian Government can sit down and work out a peaceful resolution, then any country can do that.

    So I want to thank you and celebrate today. December 17 will be a day I will not only remember as my wife's birthday. We will remember it as the day that the Cubans and the Americans started breaking the cold war, the frozen foreign policy.

    Barbara Lee, you had a lot to do with it.

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