Albion Monitor /News

Ex-Cubans Profit From New Sanctions

by Jeff Elliott

While the downing of two U.S. civilian planes earlier this month guaranteed easy passage of the new trade sanctions against Cuba, supporters of the bill also received more than $100,000 in political contributions from corporations and Cuban exiles, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics.

All members of Congress who received more than $1,000 during the first half of 1995 voted for sanctions, with the exception of Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy (D - Mass).

Bacardi organized a Florida fundraiser for North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms

Little mentioned in the emotional Congressional debate was a provision in the bill that allows suits against corporations profiting from property seized by the Castro government from Cubans who are now U.S. citizens. According to the Center, one such company that could profit from the new law is Bacardi. The distiller can now sue Pernod Ricard, a French distributor of Havana Rum, which Bacardi says is made in its old distillery in Cuba.

The Center found that Bacardi executives gave the co-author of the bill, Sen. Jesse Helms (R- North Carolina), $4,000 last April -- their only congressional contribution during the first half of 1995. Also last April, the company helped organize a fundraising lunch in Miami for Helms, where he collected $50,750 in contributions from Florida residents.

Ignacio Sanchez, a Florida attorney whose firm represents Bacardi rum, told the Baltimore Sun last May that he also helped draft the Cuba bill, although he claimed he did so for the American Bar Association, not for Bacardi.

According to the Center, foreign companies faced with such suits are likely to pay out big settlements rather than go through the nuisance of a court case. "Allowing Cuban Americans a share of their profits will just be factored in as another cost of doing business," observed Louis Desloge, co-founder of the conservative U.S. Cuba Foundation, in a recent piece for the Washington Post.

Other substantial contributions came from the Free Cuba PAC, an anti-Castro group, which gave almost $49 thousand to legislators in early 1995. Again, Helms was the top recipent, with a maximum-legal donation of $10,000, plus another $20,000 from individuals belonging to the PAC. Ignacio Sanchez is also a member of this group, the Center claims.

Top recipients from the Free Cuba PAC include:

Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) $29,377
Rep. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) $11,500
Rep. Benjamin A. Gilman (R-NY) $11,450
Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan) $10,000
Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-SC) $8,750
Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla) $8,300
Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind) $4,350
Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn) $4,250
Sen. Charles S. Robb (D-Va) $4,000
Rep. Peter Deutsch (D-Fla) $3,000
Rep. Carrie Meek (D-Fla) $2,250
Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy (D-Mass) $2,000
Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho) $1,750
Alfonse M. D'Amato (R-NY) $1,500

The tougher sanctions easily passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 336 - 86. Among the few voting against sanctions were Lynn Woolsey (D - Petaluma), and Nancy Pelosi (D - San Francisco).

Although Clinton originally opposed the bill, he quickly promised to approve it after the aircraft were shot down by Cuban pilots. The legislation was signed on March 12, just six days after the final Congressional vote.

Last Wednesday, Cuban Foreign Minister Roberto Robaina protested that the new law made no sense because "There is no U.S. property in Cuba."

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Albion Monitor March 30, 1996 (

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