U.S. State Department Geographic Bureaus: Latin America Bureau

U.S. Department of State
96/07/30 Testimony: Jeffrey Davidow on LIBERTAD
Bureau of Inter-American Affairs

Statement of
Jeffrey Davidow
Acting Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs
To
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Sub-Committee on Western Hemisphere
July 30, 1996

Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman. I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to your committee today concerning the Administration's efforts to implement the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act.

The Administration, and the State Department in particular, have been working hard to implement the provisions of the Libertad Act. We still have a great deal of work ahead of us, but I am pleased to say that the Act is already having a significant impact.

The Libertad Act was enacted in the wake of the shootdown of two U.S.-registered Cessna aircraft by the Cuban military in February, so it would be appropriate to mention the United Nations Security Council's recently adopted resolution regarding that callous and unjustified act. The resolution endorses the conclusions of the International Civil Aviation Organization's (ICAO) report on the incident, which laid the blame for the shootdown on the Cuban Government's failure to observe international law and related provisions. While we would have preferred an even stronger condemnation of the Cuban government's brutal conduct, we are pleased that the Security Council's resolution of last Friday characterizes the Cuban Government's conduct as unlawful and calls on Cuba to join other states in complying with international law.

We will also continue to seek support for UN and other multilateral examinations of the human rights situation in Cuba. These resolutions increase pressure on the regime for reform and deny it the internation Democracy Act in 1992, the U.S. Government has licensed over $125 million in private humanitarian aid to Cuba, mostly food and medicine from groups in the U.S. distributed through churches and non- governmental organizations on the island. The telecommunications agreements we licensed have dramatically improved communications between the U.S. and Cuba, including telephone, e-mail, and fax connections. This increased flow of information has strengthened ties between Americans and Cubans, strengthened non-governmental institutions that deliver aid and helped to break the Castro regime's monopoly on information.

We remain fully committed to the President's initiatives of October 6, 1995, which were directed toward strengthening civil society on the island, and toward improving the flow of information through academic and educational exchanges. We are as convinced as ever that vibrant, independent non-governmental organizations will be necessary to the building of civil society in Cuba. The Libertad Act provides language which more explicitly authorizes U.S. assistance to groups advocating change on the island. Our grant to Freedom House for activities in support of human rights activists on the island is just the first of a series of such efforts. I know that there has been considerable Congressional interest in how such programs are conducted, and I look forward to consulting with you as we determine how we can most effectively support advocates of peaceful change on the island.

Perhaps the best way to promote the growth of civil society in Cuba is by allowing U.S. civil society to establish contacts with it. Toward this end, we are licensing the sale and donation of communications equipment such as faxes, copiers, computers, etc. to NGOs. We remain committed to licensing academic and cultural exchanges in such diverse fields as the environment, sports and the arts. These programs will increase the Cuban people's exposure to American ideas and ideals in a focused way that will not provide an unwarranted hard currency windfall for the Cuban Government. We continue to license promising proposals from diverse U.S. organizations eager to share their energy and creativity with the Cuban people. While the Cuban Government has increased its efforts to isolate Cubans from fresh ideas from the outside, history suggests that it cannot stem the tide indefinitely. Those ideas will spread, and they will bring Cuba into its rightful place in our hemispheric family of democratic nations. The Cuban Government can -- and I hope it will -- allow such change to take place. Our course, however, is clear: we must do all we can to hasten a peaceful process of transformation.

Immediately after the President signed the Libertad Act, the State Department and other federal agencies began working in earnest to implement the Libertad Act's varied provisions as quickly and effectively as possible. These agencies have cooperated closely in carrying out this mandate. I will discuss our efforts to implement the Act's key provisions.

The Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control would be better able to discuss on another occasion the Administration's efforts to implement sections 102 and 103 of the Act, which call for improved enforcement of the comprehensive economic embargo. I would also leave to my colleagues in USIA to discuss at an appropriate time progress toward conversion of TV Marti to UHF. I believe that USIA has already submitted a report on that subject to the Congress.

I will turn now to discuss the sections of the Act dealing with relations between Cuba and states of the former Soviet Union. President Yeltsin's re-election should ensure that the trend of the last few years toward a far more limited, market-based relationship with Cuba will continue. All Russian combat troops have been withdrawn from Cuba. Massive trade subsidies have been discontinued and the bilateral economic relationship has dwindled. The Department has provided a report mandated by the Act on the withdrawal of Russian personnel from facilities in Cuba. We are monitoring the Russo-Cuban trade relationship to determine whether Russia is providing assistance to or engaging in non-market based trade with Cuba. We are also investigating whether Russia may be providing assistance or credits to support the Lourdes intelligence facility. We do not believe that there are any serious efforts underway to complete the Jurugua nuclear power plant at this time, but continue to carefully monitor the situation.

We have submitted a report to Congress as mandated by Section 108 of the Act on commerce with, and assistance to, Cuba from other foreign countries. Much of this information was difficult to obtain, but the Administration drew from all available sources to put together the most complete report possible. I know that some here in Congress were disappointed that the report could not be made public, but in order to present a full picture of Cuba's economic relations with other countries it was necessary to draw from confidential sources which we are bound to protect.

Title II of the Libertad Act mandates the creation of a plan for assistance to transition and democratic Cuban Governments. The purposes of this plan are 1) to ensure that the U.S. Government is adequately prepared to assist a new, democratically-oriented government, and 2) to send a message of hope to reform-minded groups that the U.S. is eager to assist them in their efforts to bring Cuba into the hemisphere's family of democratic nations. The Administration is hard at work on this plan and will be consulting with Congress in the coming weeks and months as it nears completion. We are also preparing the report on expropriation claims issues called for in section 207. We believe the conclusions of this plan will be important to bear in mind as we contemplate the kinds of assistance a new government will require in restoring prosperity to Cuba's crumbling economy and infrastructure.

Titles III and IV of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act are aimed at increasing economic pressure on the Cuban Government and discouraging involvement, or "trafficking", in confiscated properties claimed by U.S. nationals. On May 17, the Department of Justice, in coordination with the Department of State, published a summary of the provisions of Title III in Federal Register, as required by the Act. As you know, the President decided to allow Title III's private right of action to go into effect August 1. The three month "grace period" in which "traffickers" will be able to avoid Title III liability by disengaging from confiscated U.S. properties will begin on that date. Once that grace period has expired, on November 1, liability will attach in situations where "trafficking" is taking place. This prospect, along with our serious implementation of Title IV, which I will discuss in a moment, will serve as a real deterrent to "trafficking" in such confiscated properties.

The President also decided, however, to exercise the authority provided to him to suspend the right to bring actions under Title III for six months. He reported to the Congress, again as provided in the Act, that this suspension was necessary to the national interest and would expedite a transition to democracy in Cuba. The Administration believes that we should use the leverage that Title III creates to work with -- rather than against -- our allies and trading partners to promote democratic change. The six month suspension of the right to bring an action will give us the time we need to build closer cooperation with the EU and other partners. We know that other democratic nations share our goals for political and economic reform on the island; we also know that they can do more to achieve those goals.

The President will be appointing a special envoy to lead the Administration's consultations with our allies. That envoy will consult with the Congress and non-governmental organizations about his or her mission. Among the areas of potential cooperation the envoy will discuss are: increasing pressure on the Cuban Government for political and economic reform; better targetting of humanitarian assistance; increasing support to the groups that make up Cuba's nascent civil society; and promotion of business and labor practices that will bring democracy to the Cuban workplace. The EU has demonstrated its commitment to pressing for democratic change in Cuba by insisting on real progress on key reforms before proceeding with negotiations on a cooperation agreement. I am optimistic that we will be able to work with the EU, Canada, hemispheric neighbors and other countries to increase international support for democracy for a people that deserves no less.

As I mentioned earlier, the Administration has already initiated effective implementation of Title IV's authority to exclude "traffickers" from the United States. The Act charges the State Department with denying visas, and the Attorney General with denying entry, to foreign nationals who have been determined to be "traffickers," or corporate officers or principals of entities that have engaged in "trafficking," since March 12, 1996. The Administration published guidelines governing implementation of Title IV on June 17. The guidelines spell out procedures the Department of State will ow under Title IV, as well as some of the criteria that we will be using in assessing alleged "trafficking." In designing our procedures, we tried to balance the mandate of the Act for broad and speedy implementation with the need to provide transparency and minimize frictions with key U.S. allies whose nationals are affected by Title IV.

Meanwhile, the Department, in cooperation with all relevant U.S. Government agencies, has been gathering information about suspected cases of "trafficking" since the Act's enactment on March 12. On May 29, the State Department sent advisory letters to three companies known to have been involved with confiscated U.S.-claimed properties prior to the enactment of the Act. In addition to notifying such companies about the Act's provisions, word of these letters also served notice to all investors in Cuba that the Administration is serious about implementing the Act. As a result, a significant number of companies with possible involvement in confiscated U.S.-claimed properties have informed the State Department that they are disengaging from those activities. Our discussions with these companies are continuing, and we will keep the Congress informed of developments.

These foreign firms are not the only ones who will feel the impact of Title IV actions. The Cuban Government will undoubtedly find it more difficult to profit from expropriated sugar properties and properties claimed by U.S. nationals in other key sectors in the wake of Title IV implementation.

While some firms are disengaging from expropriated U.S. properties on the island, some other firms have indicated their intention to remain in Cuba engaged in activities which may fall under the purview of the Act's provisions. In those cases we are committed to moving ahead with full enforcement of the law once we have sufficient information to warrant a determination. The State Department has just made its first determinations of "trafficking" under Title IV, and on July 10 sent letters to seven individuals who are corporate officers and members of the Board of Directors of a Canadian mining firm. Those individuals will be excluded from the United States forty-five days from the date of those letters should they seek entry to this country unless the company disengages from its "trafficking" in confiscated U.S. property or the individuals withdraw from their positions with the company. We are continuing to investigate other cases with a view toward early action in cases where there is sufficient information to warrant a determination of "trafficking" in accordance with the law. I am confident that these initial determinations will further discourage foreign investment or other arrangements involving U.S.-claimed properties in Cuba.

Mr. Chairman, I have outlined the main elements of our implementation efforts to date. This has been an enormous project, and one that has strained the Department's resources, but one which we are committed to continuing. We have briefed interested staff members from both Senate and House committees about our progress on several occasions so far, and look forward to doing so in the future. I think that working together we will achieve the goals of this legislation and of the Administration's overall policy toward Cuba: a peaceful transition to democracy.

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