Tuesday, February 05, 2008

VOTE 60 : Minnesota loses out on Clinton and Coleman policy choice

Hillary Clinton and Norm Coleman seem to agree that an embargo is good foreign policy tool even if it is ineffective and Minnesota suffers.

This week’s Fareed Zakaria Newsweek column, declares that “America's approach toward Cuba is brain dead. No one even remembers why we've imposed a total embargo on the country. A policy that was put into place at the height of the cold war, when fears of Soviet missiles and communist penetration were at their peak, has been maintained even though the threat that prompted it has collapsed. What exactly are we afraid this moth-eaten island will do to America today?

Barak Obama’s Op-Ed of August 2007 described his position. Zakaria writes “Clinton immediately disagreed, firmly supporting the current policy. This places her in the strange position of arguing, in effect, that her husband's Cuba policy was not hard-line enough”.

Clinton is battling for a Presidential nomination and may be affected by the desire to garner potential Florida Cuban voters.

Candidates may say something to get elected, but then once elected, their positions may be different.

That appears to be the case for Coleman.

In 2002, when he was campaigning for Senate, Candidate Coleman distinguished himself from Bush’s policy stating disagree with him [the President] on trade with Cuba.

Coleman had to react to Governor Jesse Ventura's (as part of the U.S. Food and Agribusiness Exhibition) visit to Cuba. The trade group included St. Charles, Minnesota farmer Ralph Kaehler who was excited about new business opportunties.

Less than a year later, things changed as Kaehler complained "The difficult part, has been for the most part working with our government -- getting visas for Cuban livestock inspectors and veterinarians to come up and inspect the animals, like every other country does. That took forever. It's just fighting the politics side of doing business."

Further, Kaehler says Coleman is helping undermine the success of the Ventura trade mission.

On March 21,2003, Coleman was appointed to the Senate Working Group on Cuba . The mission acknowledged that the sanction policy has been ineffective and places America at an international competitive disadvantage and to address the issue of restricting travel to Cuba.

Cuba is the only country in the world to which the U.S. government forbids its citizens to travel. Republican Senator Michael Enzi has proposed Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act of 2007 . Interestingly, fellow members of the Working Group, (Baucus, Bingaman, Cantwell, Dorgan, Hagel and Lincoln are co-sponsors,) but Clinton and Coleman have not. Travel restrictions allow governments to shield their actions from public view … look at how people reacted after visiting to South Africa to see what Apartheid was all about. The best commentary comes from Congressman Jeff Flake (R-AZ) who sponsored similar legislation ”If my travel which I think is my human right is going to be restricted, then it seems to me that a Communist government ought to be the one doing the restricting -- not my own government of the United States of America.”

Yet another bill Promoting American Agricultural and Medical Exports to Cuba Act of 2007 also has widespread bi-partisan support from the Working Group (Baucus, Bingaman, Cantwell, Dorgan, Lincoln and Roberts are co-sponsors), but Clinton and Coleman are not.

So how did Coleman go so far astray?

Could it from Coleman’s battle with the United Nations and his allegiance to John Bolton ?

For 16 years the United Nations has passed a resolution condemning the US embargo, most recently in October, 2007 by a vote of 184-4 (the US, Israel, Marshall Islands and Palau against while the UK, Australia, Canada, etc denounced the US.)

On May 6, 2002 , Bolton alleged that Cuba had a biological weapons program and his confirmation hearing was highlighted by accusations that he tried to shape intelligence conclusions and punish intelligence professionals who worked on Cuba .

Coleman believes Bolton "was the best" of Bush's U.N. ambassadors

And what is the business opportunity cost for America ?

Cuban agricultural imports that America missed is $663 million in 2006Dollars based on US International Trade Commission analysis. It is not unreasonable to project that Minnesota’s ag-business could benefit $100 million directly and additional downstream dollars for other related businesses.

Coleman and Clinton are wrong. It’s time for the Cuba embargo to end.

FYI – The VOTE 60 in the title of this commentary refers to my effort to promote the importance of the US Senate races in 2008. VOTE 60 will be the headline of future Senate-related commentaries.

No comments: