Written Answers. - Sanctions Against Cuba.

Seán Power


20 Mr. Power asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will encourage the United States of America to bring an end to its trade blockade against Cuba as quickly as possible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8076/98]

Jack Wall


23 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the nature of the representations, if any, he has made to the United States of America Administration in relation to the blockade and on the position generally in Cuba; and, if so, the response, if any, received. [8073/98]

Jan O'Sullivan


26 Ms O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will raise, at an international level, the economic sanctions imposed on Cuba by the Government of the United States of America, in view of the hardship imposed on the population of Cuba by virtue of the sanctions which are now futile and obstructing any possible rapprochement between Cuba and the United States of America. [8191/98]

Monica Barnes


62 Mrs. Barnes asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the relaxation of sanctions against Cuba; and the implications, if any, for Irish trade. [8235/98]

Eamon Gilmore


67 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 24 of 19 February 1998 the plans, if any, the Government has to take steps to achieve the objective of ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8151/98]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 20, 23, 26, 62 and 67 together.

The Government wishes to see an end to the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed against Cuba. We are working to that end in concert with our EU partners. On 5 November 1997 Ireland with all our European Union partners voted in the United Nations General Assembly in favour of a resolution which called for an end to the embargo. The General Assembly adopted the resolution with 143 votes in favour, three against and 17 abstentions. The US Administration has been made fully aware of Ireland's concerns and that of our EU partners about the embargo and its extra-territorial effects.

The Government, accordingly, welcomes the statement by President Clinton on 20 March which announced a number of openings in US contacts with Cuba. These are primarily of a humanitarian nature. President Clinton has made it clear that these measures are a response to the outcome of the Pope's visit to Cuba.

The openings include moves to streamline and expedite the sale of medicines to Cuba by instituting new procedures that will facilitate more rapid processing of requests for licences for the export of medicines. The US Government will also resume licensing humanitarian cargo and passenger charter flights to Cuba. New licensing procedures will be instituted to allow for humanitarian remittances from US residents to their relatives in Cuba.

On the question put by Deputy Barnes, Ireland applies no trade sanctions against Cuba. The Helms-Burton Act, which was signed into US law on 12 March 1996, allows the US to take extra-territorial measures against companies or individuals trafficking in expropriated property from Cuba. Following inquiries carried out by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, it appears that no Irish company has been directly affected by this legislation. President Clinton has continued to exercise his power to suspend certain aspects of the Helms-Burton Act, in particular Title III, which provides for US nationals to file suit against persons trafficking in expropriated property.

Following the papal visit, more than one hundred prisoners of conscience have been freed by the Cuban authorities. I hope that these releases will be followed by those of other prisoners, including the four members of the dissident working group, and the prisoner Jesus Chamber Ramirez, who was sentenced in 1992 to ten years in jail for "enemy propaganda and disrespect against government authority". We have raised this important case in the European Union.
In reviewing the implementation of the European Union's common position on Cuba in December last the EU General Affairs Council reiterated that the EU's objective towards Cuba remained the encouragement of a process of peaceful transition to pluralist democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as sustainable economic recovery and improvement in the living standards of the Cuban people. Our twin objectives are to see an end to the US embargo against Cuba and also to see the Cuban Government make concrete moves towards pluralist democracy and respect for human rights in that country.