Cuba accuses U.S. of hiding Helms-Burton changes
May 30, 1997
Web posted at: 1:45 p.m. EDT (1745 GMT)
HAVANA (CNN) -- Ricardo Alarcon, the head of Cuba's
parliament, blasted the U.S. Congress in a rare press
conference Friday, accusing the House International Affairs
Committee of hiding the passage of several anti-Cuba
modifications to the Helms-Burton Law.
The Helms-Burton Law was passed last year in an effort to
choke off trade in Cuba. Chapter Four of the law has been
particularly contentious in the international community: It
denies visas to executives of companies that do business
involving property that Cuban President Fidel Castro's
government confiscated after it came to power in Cuba.
President Bill Clinton temporarily waived Title Four, and in
April, the United States and the European Commission brokered
a deal over the amendment, agreeing on a series of
"disciplines" that would deter further investment in Cuba in
exchange for permanently waiving Chapter Four.
Up to now, Alarcon said, he's seen no evidence that the
United States has moved forward on the promised changes. And
even if the modifications agreed upon with Europe are passed,
he said, "The illegal character of Helms Burton would not
change. Its deep anti-Cuban meaning would not change. And
its clear violation of international law would not change."
But according to Alarcon, the International Affairs Committee
passed a set of amendments modifying Chapter Four in closed
session. Some of the amendments add extraterritorial and
aggressive elements, not only against Cuba but against third
The debate was supposed to be open to the public, Alarcon
said. Because it was in "absolute secrecy," not even
Congress Daily reported on the legislation during the week in
which the committee passed it, he said, holding up a copy of
He said that if the full House accepts the committee's
amendments when it hears the issue in the first weeks of
June, Europeans would have to consent to never again present
their arguments against Helms-Burton before the World Trade
"As if this were not enough," he said, "some of the
annexationist mafia and some of the legislators who back
Helms-Burton have been announcing the possibility of
introducing a Chapter Five ... Today the international wires
talk about establishing this new document, which might
establish new sanctions against foreign enterprises in Cuba,
this time through taxes."
The Cuban government plans to denounce the move, Alarcon
said, and to petition the United Nations to denounce the
proposed changes to the law. Already, Cuba has contacted
other governments to warn them about the situation, he said.
He said his government felt revealing the proposals was
urgent, since Clinton's ability to waive Chapter Four expires
in the first weeks of July. "I don't see that anybody is
committing a mortal sin by making information available to
journalists," he said, responding to a reporter who asked why
Cuba chose this moment to complain about the possible
"It's likely that the organizers of this offensive have
managed to prevent you from knowing the truth. I assume the
responsibility and the guilt for allowing the media to know
something that should not be a secret," he said.
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