U.S. lawmakers are preparing a series of bills to ease U.S. restrictions on trade with Cuba, with plans to introduce them in the Senate in the next two months, senior congressional aides said on Monday.
These would be the first practical steps toward lifting the U.S. trade embargo on the communist island following an announcement by the two countries in December that they would improve relations after five decades of hostility.
One piece of legislation being drafted would allow U.S. telecommunications companies to do business in Cuba and another would specifically target the market for agricultural products. A third bill would be a broader effort to lift the embargo.
One Democratic aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the plan was to generate debate on Cuba policy, despite pockets of opposition in Congress. Public opinion polls show most Americans favor more normal relations.
"This is a long-term strategy," the aide said.
Republican and Democratic senators introduced a measure last week aimed at ending legal restrictions on travel between America and Cuba. A companion bill, also with bipartisan support, is being introduced in the House of Representatives.
The shift has largely bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress but faces stiff resistance from a number of mostly Republican Cuban-American lawmakers, including Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, both of Florida.