Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Showdown over Cuba policy

Scene from the 1957 movie, "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral"
Sen. Bob Menéndez, D-N.J., gave a major speech on Cuba Monday, making a case for continued sanctions. He said:
We can never turn our back on what has happened and continues to happen in Cuba! We can never wink-and-nod, and say: It’s been 50 years, that’s long enough, things are changing for the better in Cuba, so we should ease sanctions.

I say – NO! – No, we should not ease sanctions. We should not let up. We should not reward the Castro regime for its human rights violations. 
The debate over U.S. policy toward Cuba is highly polarized. Some of those who oppose sanctions may get their chance to throw in their two cents today.

Rajiv Shah, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, is scheduled to testify before the State, Foreign Operations Subcommittee at 10:15 a.m. in Room SD-138 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.
The subcommittee chair is Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, a Vermont Democrat and critic of U.S. policy toward Cuba.

The State Department and USAID are requesting $46.2 billion. USAID manages or partially manages $20.1 billion.
According to this 191-page document, USAID's Cuba request was $20 million or 0.043 percent of the total that the agency manages.
It's a pittance in the grand scheme of things, but the Cuba programs are deeply important to Menéndez and other Cuban-American lawmakers.
However, these lawmakers haven't been happy with USAID's work in Cuba and in February they voted to shift responsibility for the programs to the State Department (See "USAID out of Cuba by 2015" and "New Cuba grants: $4 million up for grabs").

Not entirely related, but here's an interesting article about polarization in American politics:
"How politics makes us stupid."

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