The U.S. Treasury Department ruled Feb.22 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 agricultural products to Cuba.

The act does not specifically state whether payment had to be made before the products leave the United States.

In most instances, payment was being made after the products arrived in Cuba, a common practice in international trade. Opponents of the ruling say that it will make U.S. agricultural producers “non-competitive.”

Sen. Max Baucus, (D-Mont.) Ranking Member of the Finance Committee, has vowed to block political appointees to the Treasury Department if the new ruling is implemented.


The State Department Feb. 22 called “complete madness” recent accusations by Venezuela President Hugo Chavez that he is the target of an assassination plot by the Bush administration.

“Our criticisms are based on what we see is a deterioration of democracy in Venezuela, and are not part of some kind of personal attack,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said during press conference.

A war of words between the two governments has escalated since Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said during her January confirmation hearings that Venezuela, with its close ties to Fidel Castro, is an “outpost of tyranny.” Chavez, who has said he may stop the supply of petroleum to the United States, has called Bush an “idiot” and a “puppet,” among other things.


Mexico’s House of Representatives Feb. 22 approved, 391-5 legislation that would allow Mexican citizens living abroad to vote in presidential elections. The legislation could add an additional 4 million voters from the United States alone.

“This is like a bridge that will join us to a Mexico that is beyond our borders… a way to improve our relationship with the vast number of citizens who have left us,” said bill cosponsor Marma Martmnez Rivera.

Supporters hope the bill, if approved by the Senate, will be implemented in time for presidential elections in June 2006.