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Senate OKs Bill to Ease Cuba Embargo

October 19, 2000|From Reuters

WASHINGTON — The Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation Wednesday allowing sales of U.S. food and medicine to Cuba, potentially a landmark change in the 4-decade-old embargo of the island.

Havana has denounced the proposal as a sham that actually tightens the embargo and says it will not make any purchases. Hundreds of thousands of Cubans, led by President Fidel Castro, marched in protest past the U.S. diplomatic mission hours before the vote.

The 86-8 Senate vote was the bill's final congressional approval, and the White House has said President Clinton will sign the legislation, which is part of a $78-billion agriculture funding bill. Sales could begin four months later.

Cuba has been under U.S. economic sanctions since it accepted Soviet aid in 1962. Public sentiment, aided by the saga of child shipwreck survivor Elian Gonzalez, has shifted toward relaxation of the embargo as a Cold War relic.

"This has been a historic action on the part of both the House and now the Senate," said Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.

"We hope to eventually provide a significant amount of food and feed products . . . particularly as Cuba builds its tourism industry."

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