In a speech before the National Press Club on Thursday, U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., called for an end to the U.S.’s economic embargo on Cuba in hopes of spurring agricultural exports to the Communist country.
“In Kansas, we’ll try something once and we don’t always expect it to be successful the first time. We might try it a second time, maybe even a third time,” Moran said. “But I would tell you Kansans have enough common sense and are smart enough to know that after trying something for 54 years, you ought to try something different.”
The embargo on Cuba has existed since Oct. 19, 1960 but food and medicine were exempt for the first two years. Since 1962, the embargo has prevented the legal exchange of all goods between the two countries.
“If the goal of U.S. policy is to change the nature of Cuban citizens and the relationship with their government, what we have been doing has not worked. And it’s not surprising it hasn’t worked because it’s a unilateral sanction,” Moran said. “When wheat, for example, is not sold to Cuba, it’s not that they’re not buying wheat, it’s that wheat’s being purchased from some other place: our competitors.”
Moran says he has been working on the issue since the year 2000 but admits to suspending his advocacy for increased trade over the arrest and conviction of American subcontractor Alan Gross.
“Two years ago, I said ‘I’m done until Alan Gross is released’ and I’m pleased to know that has occurred and I’m pleased to reengage in a very active way in this issue,” Moran said. Gross was released from a Cuban prison on Dec. 17, 2014 as part of a deal between the governments of the U.S. and Cuba.
Moran says his lobbying on the issue of trade with Cuba originally spawned from “the self-interest of American agriculture, particularly Kansas agriculture” but he has since found more noble reasons for opening the Cuban market to American goods.
“It’s about changing the opportunities that Cubans have in relationship with their government,” he said. “I happen to believe that a growing economy and greater standard of living creates opportunities for the Cuban people to make demands upon their government, otherwise they would be spending their time trying to figure out how to put food on their family’s table.”
Moran is calling on the Treasury Department to change their regulations regarding Cuba and for members of Congress to alter the statutory provisions related to the embargo.
“I think there is a noble calling here to try to make the world a better place for all citizens, including those who live in Cuba,” he said. “Common sense says we ought to do this and, in fact, our morality says we ought to do this. Let’s make the difference; let’s make the change.”