BOSTON - House lawmakers approved a bill yesterday to require the state's pension fund to divest from companies doing business in Sudan, but declined to add Cuba, Iran, Syria, and North Korea to the list.
Sudan is accused by the US government of complicity in genocide. The African nation's Darfur region has been torn by violence since 2003, with African tribal rebels targeted by militias that observers say are supported by the government.
At least 200,000 people have died, and 2.5 million have become refugees.
Dozens of US universities and 10 states have decided to sell investments in companies doing business in Sudan.
The state's pension fund has $54 million invested in a handful of companies doing business in Sudan, according to the state Treasurer's office. The Senate has already passed similar legislation.
House Republicans backed an amendment that would have added Cuba, Iran, Syria, and North Korea to the list, but it was defeated in the heavily Democratic House, whose members said those should be taken up separately.
When a second Republican amendment was blocked by Democratic leaders, minority leader Brad Jones, Republican of North Reading, scolded his colleagues.
"There's probably been more debate in Iran today than in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It's a disgrace, a disgrace," he said.