FILE ID:95061407.LAR




TR95061407 (At Senate hearing) +eg (760)

By Eric Green

USIA Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- Two senators running for president have joined with

several of their Republican House colleagues in voicing passionate

support for a bill that would tighten the economic squeeze on Cuba,

saying that is the only way to rid the hemisphere of Fidel Castro.

In June 14 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's

subcommittee on Western Hemisphere and Peace Corps Affairs, Sens. Phil

Gramm (R-Texas) and Arlen Specter (R-Penn.) called for passage of the

bill to reverse what they said was the Clinton administration's move

to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba.

Spector, who is also chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee,

said the recent shift in U.S. policy to repatriate Cuban "boat people"

back to Cuba, rather than allowing them to continue coming to the

United States, "may be a signal" that the administration plans to

recognize the Castro regime.

The Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act, sponsored

by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms (R-N.C.),

is a "very important bill," Specter said, for achieving Castro's

ouster "at the earliest possible time."

Graham released a letter to Helms, saying that tightening the economic

embargo against Cuba "is a vital tool" in ending Castro's regime.

Signs of panic among Castro's dictatorship, Graham said, "are

unmistakable evidence that the embargo is working.

"Rather than relieve that pressure, we must increase it. We cannot

allow the freedom tide that has swept the planet to ebb before it

drowns Fidel Castro."

Though not testifying in person, Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole

(R-Kan.), considered the front-runner among Republican presidential

candidates, also released a letter supporting the bill.

The administration, Dole said, "has found many reasons to oppose

strengthening the embargo" against Cuba. "This comes as no surprise,"

Dole charged, "in light of their ... about-face on Cuban refugee


Helms, not shy in his avowed goal to have Castro deposed, called the

Cuban communist leader a "bloodsucking tyrant" and said he will do

everything possible "to tighten the noose" around him.

However, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y) called Helms' legislation

misguided, saying it violates U.S. trade treaties with other

countries. Rather than isolate Cuba, he said, Congress should favor

"opening the doors of communication" and increasing economic, cultural

and educational exchanges with Havana.

The United States, he said, is losing hundreds of millions of dollars

from the current economic embargo by not exporting agricultural goods

to Cuba. Even if the Helms' bill is passed, Rangel said, the United

States is not prepared to enforce its provisions, which include

banning business dealings with anyone who buys U.S. property

confiscated by Cuba.

The measure also prohibits U.S. imports of sugar products from

countries buying Cuban sugar, blocking international loans to Cuba,

and deducting from U.S. aid to Russia the amount Moscow pays Havana.

In addition, the bill calls for strengthening U.S. broadcasting into

Cuba, and asks the administration to prepare a post-Castro plan for

the country.

However, Rangel said the bill would cause the United States "to take

on the whole world (because) we don't like Fidel Castro. He is not

worth it."

When challenged by Helms and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) on

whether Castro should be deposed, Rangel responded that he wants all

Communists out of power.

"If you're commie, you should be out," Rangel said. But Rangel, who

fought in the Korean War against the Communist North Korean regime,

said "he's not going back to get rid of any more communist leaders


Ros-Lehtinen said the LIBERTAD Act is urgent because a joint-stock

company composed of Italian, German, Brazilian, British, and Russian

firms has offered $800 million to finish the construction of the

Juragua nuclear power plant in Cienfuegos, Cuba.

She said that if an accident were to occur at this power plant or

Castro was to arrange an "incident" there, the radioactive fallout

would pose a catastrophic health danger to Cuba, the Caribbean, and

the U.S. eastern seaboard.

Some 130 members of Congress, Ros-Lehtinen said, sent a letter to

President Clinton telling him he must put pressure on Russia to stop

completion of the plant.

Helms' legislation, she added, "will stop ... obscene and immoral

investments by those who prefer to make an easy dollar off the backs

of the suffering Cuban people rather than stand in solidarity with

their aspirations for freedom."