Key GOP senator calls Cuba embargo ineffective

Sen. Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released a draft report Monday saying it is time to reconsider longtime U.S. economic sanctions on Cuba.

“After 47 years … the unilateral embargo on Cuba has failed to achieve its stated purpose of ‘bringing democracy to the Cuban people,’ ” Lugar, R-Indiana, wrote in a letter that accompanied the report. “The current U.S. policy has many passionate defenders, and their criticism of the Castro regime is justified. Nevertheless, we must recognize the ineffectiveness of our current policy and deal with the Cuban regime in a way that enhances U.S. interests.” Lugar’s letter preceded a 21-page draft report by the Republican members of the committee titled “Changing Cuba Policy — In the United States National Interest.” U.S. officials long have defended the trade embargo on Cuba — initiated in 1962 — as a way of pressuring the communist nation and its leaders, Fidel Castro and his brother, Raul, the country’s current president, to move toward democracy. The United States also has imposed travel restrictions on Cuba, which lies 90 miles south of Florida.

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In October, the U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution urging the United States to end its trade embargo on Cuba — a vote that was praised by Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque as “a clear and direct message to the next president of the United States about the necessity to change this obsolete and cruel policy.” During his candidacy, President Obama said that he would be willing to meet with Cuba’s leaders as well as the leadership of other countries that do not have diplomatic ties with the United States. A month after Obama’s election, Fidel Castro penned an essay in which he said he would be open to the idea of meeting with the new U.S. leader. But the communist leader warned that Obama “must be reminded that the carrot-and-stick theory cannot be applied in our country.”