At this time, when the democratic opposition within Cuba is acquiring greater strength and showing extraordinary political maturity, I believe it is important to remember the reasons for the existence of the U.S. embargo and the three conditions for its lifting.
When I arrived in the U.S. Congress in January 1993, I was able to confirm that U.S. law did not prohibit trade and financing with the Cuban regime by the great majority of U.S. corporations. I was truly impacted by the fact that U.S. law only prohibited trade and financing with the Cuban regime by foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies, but not by U.S. companies inside the United States (in other words, the overwhelming majority of U.S. firms).
Mass U.S. tourism to Cuba was also not barred by law. All existing sanctions at that time were contained in executive orders that, of course, could be lifted by other executive orders, at any time, by any president.
Since I was convinced that no dictatorship in history has ever given anything to the democratic opposition in exchange for nothing, and since I did not have confidence that the President of the United States would insist that a genuine democratic transition for the Cuban people be underway before lifting the embargo on the regime, I decided to codify — to enact into law — those executive orders: the prohibitions on commerce, on financing, and on mass U.S. tourism to Cuba. And to condition the lifting of those sanctions (commonly known as the embargo) on three conditions within Cuba: 1) the liberation of all political prisoners, without exceptions; 2) the legalization of all political parties, without exceptions, of the independent press and free labor unions; and 3) the scheduling of free elections with international supervision for the Cuban people.
In March 1996, with the decisive help of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Sen. Bob Menéndez, I achieved codification passed by Congress. All the executive orders that constituted the embargo were made part of U.S. law, as well as the three conditions for their lifting. I believe it was the most important achievement of my 18 years in the U.S. Congress.
I was convinced then, and I continue to believe, that the U.S. embargo and the conditioning of its lifting — upon the requirement that a genuine democratic transition based on the three conditions be underway in Cuba — constitute instruments of great importance in the hands of the Cuban opposition.