US lawmakers to Cuba for cooperation mission

Agence France-Presse
US lawmakers to Cuba for cooperation mission


Diplomats in Cuba and Senator Patrick Leahy's office in Washington announced the visit, which features 6 Democratic lawmakers

WASHINGTON DC, USA – A delegation of US lawmakers headed by Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy will travel to Cuba Saturday, January 17, to explore bilateral collaboration following last month’s historic detente between the long-term foes.

Diplomats in Cuba and Leahy’s office in Washington announced the visit, which features six Democratic lawmakers, including the party’s number-two Senator, Dick Durbin, and congressman Chris Van Hollen.

US President Barack Obama took the historic step to begin renewing ties with Havana and move to end the decades-old policy of isolation toward the communist-ruled island.

The move prompted praise from allies but heavy criticism from Republican opponents, who saw the policy shift as appeasing an oppressive dictatorship.

The Democratic delegation backs the new policy, and it was Leahy and Van Hollen who flew to Cuba in a cloak-and-dagger operation to escort American prisoner Alan Gross back to the United States after five years in a Cuban jail.

“We have all been to Cuba before, and we strongly support the president’s new direction for our policy toward Cuba,” Leahy said.

“We are going this time to discuss our expectations, and the Cubans’ expectations, for the normalization of relations. We want to explore opportunities for greater cooperation, and to encourage Cuban officials to address issues of real concern to the American people and to their representatives in Congress.”

The agenda for the three-day trip calls for meetings with Cuban officials, civil society representatives – including dissidents – and officials from the US Interests Section in Havana. 

They are also expected to meet with several diplomats, including from Mexico, Spain, Norway and Colombia.

Leahy played a key humanitarian role between the two nations last year.

He was involved in negotiations and elaborate plans that ultimately led to the wife of Gerardo Hernandez, one of three Cuban agents jailed in the US since 1998, becoming pregnant through artificial insemination while her husband was behind prison walls.

Hernandez and wife Adriana’s baby was born January 6, just 20 days after the three agents were released and returned to the island as part of the bilateral rapprochement.

Three Cuban dissidents – Berta Soler, Jose Daniel Ferrer and Elizardo Sanchez – confirmed to Agence France-Presse that they were invited to meet with the US lawmakers Sunday, January 18. –

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