TIGHTENING UP ON CUBA: The U.S. Treasury Department has ruled that agricultural products sent to Cuba cannot leave U.S. soil until the Cuban government pays cash for the products. The rule represents what the Bush administration calls a "clarification" of the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000, which allows for limited sale of food and agricultural products to Cuba. The act does not specifically state whether payment has to be made before the products leave the United States. In most instances, payment is made after the products arrive in Cuba, a common practice in international trade. Opponents of the ruling say it will make U.S. agricultural producers "non-competitive." Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, has vowed to block political appointees to the Treasury Department if the new ruling is implemented.
SMALL BUSINESS: The House Small Business Committee released its annual report analyzing the impact of the Bush administration's fiscal 2006 budget proposal on small-business programs. The committee, led by Congressman Donald Manzullo (R-IL), said in the report that out of 100 programs that offer small-business assistance – such as access to affordable capital, entrepreneurial development, and technical assistance – more than 50 are targeted for cuts or elimination. The overall average cut for the programs was nearly 80 percent, up 10 percent from the fiscal 2004 budget, the report said. Sixteen programs faced severe funding cuts, with 35 targeted for termination, according to the report. Agencies hit hardest would be the Small Business Administration (14 programs), Department of Agriculture (12 programs), and Housing and Urban Development (8 programs).
PARTISAN NCLR?: During a recent meeting of Hispanic organizations in Miami, Juan Galán, former chairman of the Cuban American National Council, told Washington-based National Council of La Raza (NCLR) president Janet Murguia that one of the most influential and well-known Hispanic groups in the country would "have more credibility in Miami" if it were not perceived as leaning toward the Democratic Party. The meeting was convened to consider strategies of Hispanic outreach to Corporate America. "There is a perception of a number of these organizations that sit on the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility board as [NCLR] being Democratic, and I think that's hurting the organization," Mr. Galán said during the February 16 meeting. Mr. Galán added, as an example, NCLR's approach to national farmworker issues. "To many Cuban Americans, the farmworker union movement is viewed as aligned with Fidel Castro." Ms. Murguia, a former Clinton administration official, said she appreciated Mr. Galán's frankness but did not specifically address his comments, adding, "Miami is a huge community with a very diverse population. It's fascinating, and it's important for me to have an understanding of people who are here."
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