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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 countries.


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 the publication.

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 Organization.

"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 Helms-Burton changes.

"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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