25th May 05:28
U.S. Sen. Coleman Says Timing Not Right to Lift Sanctions Since Dissidents Jailed
Sen. Coleman Pays Cuba Human Rights Call
Visiting Cuba, U.S. Sen. Coleman Says Timing Not Right to Lift Sanctions
Since Dissidents Jailed
The Associated Press
HAVANA Sept. 21 -
Sen. Norm Coleman, visiting Cuba on Sunday, backed away from earlier
calls to end sanctions on the communist country, saying that lifting the
restrictions now would send the wrong message.
Coleman cited the Cuban government's crackdown on the opposition in
March, when 75 dissidents were rounded up and sentenced to prison terms of
between six and 28 years.
"I think about the folks in prison and what message that gives them,"
the Minnesota Republican said.
American moves to eliminate the 40-year-old trade and travel sanctions
have "been building for some time, but it's not there yet," Coleman told a
small group of American reporters in Havana. "And the March actions create a
Coleman, however, said releasing some or all of the 75 dissidents
"would be a good gesture," and would "increase the prospects" for American
support to end the trade embargo and travel restrictions.
Coleman arrived here Friday for a four-day visit to study human rights
and trade issues.
Coleman is chairman of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee of the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a member of the Senate Agriculture
Committee. He is especially interested in future business for Minnesota
Coleman met with parliament speaker Ricardo Alarcon and other
communist officials and could meet President Fidel Castro before leaving
Coleman in the past has said he believes that eliminating the trade
and travel restrictions could help nurture democracy and human rights in the
But after meeting Saturday with dissidents and the relatives of jailed
opponents, he said the timing is wrong.
Minnesota farmers have sold about $70 million in agricultural products
to Cuba since communist officials began taking advantage of a 2000 law that
created an exception to the sanctions.