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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Acts to Ease Allies' Sanction Ire

WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Bill Clinton has appointed a highly regarded trouble-shooter to assuage allies infuriated by a new U.S. law that punishes foreigners who do business with Cuba and to recommend new policies aimed at transforming the troublesome Caribbean nation into a democracy.

The appointment of Undersecretary of Commerce Stuart Eizenstat as special representative for Cuba was announced late Friday in a White House statement.

Eizenstat, 53, who will retain his Commerce post, wants the allies to stop fuming about the new law and direct their energy toward programs aimed at encouraging democracy in Cuba. He said he hoped to forge a "partnership with our allies ... that will advance a transition to democracy in Cuba."

Among possible approaches, he said, would be channeling foreign aid to nongovernmental Cuban organizations such as human rights groups and adoption by foreign companies in Cuba of business principles that foster democracy; he said he was thinking of rules like "the Sullivan principles in South Africa, so that if there has to be an investment in Cuba -- and of course we do not favor that -- but if there is, it will at least promote change."

The Sullivan principles -- set down by Leon Sullivan, a black American businessman -- were guidelines the United States encouraged American companies to adopt while investing in South Africa more than a decade ago when a ruling white minority there oppressed the black majority. In general, they maintained that investment was permissible in South Africa so long as companies encouraged training and advancement of black Africans.

Any such plan for Cuba would be watched closely by American businesses eager to compete with European companies now investing in Cuba. A U.S. embargo long has prevented such U.S. investment. But a U.S.-sponsored program that accepted foreign investment in Cuba as long as it promoted democracy would provoke demands by American corporations to take part as well.

Allied anger rose earlier this year when Congress passed and Clinton signed the new law, adopted after Cuban MiG jets shot down two private planes, killing four Cuban Americans from Miami. The law, sponsored by conservative Senator Jesse Helms and Representative Dan Burton, seeks to punish foreign companies doing business in Cuba on property once owned by Americans, including those who emigrated from Cuba after Fidel Castro came to power in 1959.

Europeans, Canadians and Mexicans with investments in Cuba have denounced the law as a secondary boycott that violates international norms.