Thursday, July 29, 2010

On Cuba, it's freedom vs. free trade

On Cuba, it's freedom vs. free trade

The true policy differences between Reps. Jerry Moran, R-Hays, and Todd
Tiahrt, R-Goddard, can be counted on one hand with a few fingers left
over. But their sharp disagreement on U.S. policy toward Cuba says a lot
about what matters to them, potentially mattering to Kansas Republicans
still deciding between the two in Tuesday's primary for U.S. Senate.

Moran wants closer trade ties, arguing that the 50-year-old embargo has
failed and is denying Kansas farmers full access to the Cuban market.

Moran co-sponsored legislation approved last month on a 25-20 vote by
the House Agriculture Committee — with the support of only four
Republicans — that would repeal a broad ban on American travel to Cuba
and allow commodities to be sold directly to Cuba, as well as some
direct financial transactions with Cuban banks. The full House has yet
to vote on the bill.

Tiahrt is guided by the anti-communist principle, loudly promoted by
many Cuban-Americans, that any loosening of trade or travel restrictions
will only help the regime of Fidel and Raul Castro and be bad for U.S.
national security.

Tiahrt noted to The Eagle editorial board this month that the United
States already exports a large number of agricultural products to Cuba
and that the disagreement comes down to how Cuba pays for imports (or
rather fails to pay for them, he said). The United States should insist
on human rights, free speech and free elections in Cuba before opening
up trade and travel, he has argued. Until then, a better place to expand
agricultural markets is Colombia, he said.

"I don't think giving the Castro brothers a credit card and propping up
their regime is good," Tiahrt told the editorial board.

In Moran's interview with the editorial board a week later, he noted
that Tiahrt's argument doesn't seem to apply elsewhere: "So we shouldn't
sell Boeing aircraft to China?" Moran asked.

Moran had expanded on the point in a House hearing in March: "We deal
with communist countries and offer them credit. Who is the biggest
creditor? China? What a double standard we have created in this country.
We don't worry about selling Boeing aircraft to China, but we don't want
to sell wheat to Cuba."

Moran isn't indifferent to human rights, but he believes open trade and
access to higher-quality food and medicine will raise the standard of
living and lead to regime change. "Personal freedom follows economic
opportunity," Moran wrote in The Eagle last year.

The editorial board has sided with Moran on this issue, because the
trade restrictions mostly just hurt Kansas farmers. The Republicans
running to replace Moran and Tiahrt in Congress are divided: In the 1st
District, state Sens. Jim Barnett and Tim Huelskamp and Tracey Mann and
Rob Wasinger have expressed support for easing trade restrictions, as
has state Sen. Jean Schodorf in the 4th District. Those who oppose more
trade with a Castro-ruled Cuba include 4th District candidates Wink
Hartman, Mike Pompeo and Jim Anderson.

Moran and Tiahrt both want a free Cuba and a free market in Cuba for
Kansas agricultural products. But where Tiahrt falls in line with GOP
orthodoxy in refusing to compromise on one to achieve the other, Moran
favors what's best for Kansas farmers right now.

— For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman

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