United States-Cuban Relationsby Representative Sam Farr
Posted on 2015-01-07
FARR. Thank you very much, my dear colleague from California and
our distinguished Member of Congress, Barbara Lee. And I can't think of
any other Member who has made more trips and taken more people and
influenced this change of policy in the United States Congress than
I have had the pleasure of traveling to Cuba on six different mission trips and each one of them has been very interesting, one with my constituents in Santa Cruz, California, who have a sister city relationship with an area called Guama, and it looks much like the California coastline, and a very interesting area of trying to help rural people with a better connection by learning about their rural delivery of medicine, which far exceeds the way we treat rural people in this country, and learning from them how we might be doing a better job, at the same time improving the facilities they have, and things like that, just a cultural exchange.
I find that every time I am there, whether it is Havana or other parts of Cuba, that there is always kind of a curiosity of learning about another country, a very well-educated country, a sophisticated country, yet a very, very poor country.
I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Latin America, in Colombia. I lived in barrios without water and without lights. People in Cuba might have access to water and lights, but the living conditions that they live in are really restricted, and some of the conditions in Havana are the greatest poverty I have seen in the world.
So this will change when you get people that are well-educated and get an economy growing. I think that the action of President Obama is absolutely awesome. It is real diplomatic leadership. It is the ability to change the United States' isolated, backward, close-the-door policy to opening it up with all the other Presidents of this hemisphere.
As we prepare to go to Panama in the spring, President Obama now will be joining every President of this hemisphere, 36 different countries in the Western Hemisphere, all of whom have diplomatic relationships, travel relationships, normal relationships with Cuba, except the United States of America, and he is going to be applauded for his leadership in joining the hemispheric unity.
When you think about the opportunities of this hemisphere, we can get along in this hemisphere in three languages: Spanish, English, and Portuguese, a little bit of French. We are not at war with anybody. This is a magnificent hemisphere to unify, and to be isolated from that unification by having this archaic policy towards Cuba is just wrong.
So, Mr. President, you are a hero, and I look forward to you being welcomed as a hero at the hemispheric summit this spring.
I would also like to say, I am ranking member on the Agriculture Subcommittee of Appropriations, and this is an opportunity for 11 million people living in Cuba and hungry, and really hungry. Cuba has to import almost everything. They have trade importations from the United States, so buying agriculture products isn't new. What is going to be new is the ability to trade in normal functions, in using the financial instruments that all trade negotiants have.
It is very difficult to export to Cuba because of the requirements that we make in the United States. We are not allowed, as Americans, to use credit cards or to get credit. All the other countries can. So what happens is these other countries are taking away market share where we could be in there with our products.
I am very proud, in agriculture, to see the leadership of our States, our agricultural States, the Governors--bipartisan. This is not Democratic. This is a bipartisan, sort of the American outreach, and we have formed a coalition of agricultural groups to work on, really, opening up the trade.
I am very proud to say that the International Dairy--I am going to read off this list. The International Dairy Foods Association, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, National Association of [[Page H101]] Wheat Growers, National Barley Growers, National Chicken Council, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Milk Producers Federation, National Turkey Federation, North American Meat Institute, the U.S. Dairy Export Council, the U.S. Wheat Associates, the USA Rice Federation, et cetera, et cetera, are all interested in helping promote our relationship with Cuba.
So congratulations, President Obama. You are a true leader in this hemisphere.
Thank you, Barbara Lee, for setting aside this time for us to discuss it.
I want to personally thank Barbara Lee for inviting Alan Gross to be here yesterday when we were sworn in. I was fortunate to be able to meet with Alan Gross when he was incarcerated in Cuba. I brought him salami from the Eastern Market here and he just loved that. So last night he gave me a bracelet that he made when he was incarcerated. It is so nice to see him back in the United States in the Halls of the United States Congress.
America is changing, and this is a big step.