Congress Passes Helms-Burton

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: In a different political climate last fall, a bill pushing for increased sanctions against Cuba was going nowhere in Congress. But after Cuba shot down two planes two weeks ago, the Helms-Burton Bill quickly revived. Passed by the Senate on Tuesday, the bill is breezed through the House late Wednesday. "The Bill would have been modified and defanged at any other time," reports TIME's J.F.O. McAllister. "But it's a political fact of life that this is an election year and Clinton cannot give the Republicans a simple issue they can beat him with. He can't appear to be wimpy after the Cuban MiG's shot down two planes." The most controversial portions of Helms-Burton would bar shareholders, officers and any others connected with a foreign company that makes use of property expropriated by the Cuban government from entering into the U.S. "Under such a provision, the Queen of England, who owns shares of a company that does business in Cuba, would not be able to come to the U.S.," says McAllister. The measure will also allow U.S. citizens, whose property was seized, even if they were Cuban citizens at the time of seizure, to sue in the US for damages. President Clinton did win one important concession: the right to sue will not activate until August 13, and the president can waive it for successive six-month periods. "The bill does change the status of the Cuban embargo," adds McAllister. "Modifying the embargo will require Congressional approval, as opposed to an executive order the President can undo. This is an unprecedented incursion into the president's foreign policy powers."