WASHINGTON (DTN)--House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-TX, may emerge as the biggest obstacle to legislation to liberalize relations with Cuba, Brian Alexander, executive director of the Cuba Policy Foundation, said in a recent interview.

"Until you solve the DeLay problem, I don't know if the administration and the Senate really matter," Alexander said. "We don't have a quick and easy solution to getting around him but I assure you we are working on one."

DeLay is a staunch Fidel Castro foe. During one House Appropriations Committee markup session on Cuba legislation, DeLay told other members that his outspoken opposition to Castro's Communist government stems from a childhood experience. His father was then an executive in a South American country, and when political unrest he and his mother were routed through Cuba on a flight to the United States and separated by Cuban authorities in the airport. DeLay said that separating mothers and children was an example of the excesses of which Castro's government was capable.

House Republicans George Nethercutt of Washington, Jerry Moran of Kansas and Jeff of Flake have led legislative efforts to liberalize trade with Cuba and travel to the island in recent years, but John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council said there is a "question" now that the Republicans will be in the majority in both houses of how much Republicans senators and House members will be willing to "be in general opposition to the party leader" with a presidential election only two years away.

Kavulich also noted that the atmosphere in the House could be affected by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-VA, who appears likely to become chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. Kavulich said Goodlatte would be subject to substantial constituent pressure to liberalize trade with Cuba because Cuba has bought agricultural products from Virginia and Virginia agricultural firms were represented at the agricultural exhibition in Havana in September.

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