U.S. Lawmakers in Cuba for 3-Day Visit
By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT and SUSANNE CRAIGJAN. 17, 2015
WASHINGTON — A delegation of American legislators led by Senator Patrick
J. Leahy arrived in Cuba on Saturday to discuss greater cooperation and
remaining areas of disagreement, the first congressional delegation to
visit the island nation since President Obama announced last month that
he was restoring full diplomatic ties with it.
“We are going this time to discuss our expectations, and the Cubans’
expectations, for the normalization of relations,” Mr. Leahy, Democrat
of Vermont, said in a statement. “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
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, who has recently shown an interest in
foreign travel as a way to drum up business at home, is also planning a
trip to Cuba, his office said on Saturday.
Accompanying Mr. Leahy on his three-day trip are other Democratic
members of Congress: Senators Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, Debbie
Stabenow of Michigan and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, and
Representatives Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Peter Welch of Vermont.
In the statement, Mr. Leahy’s office said the trip was intended to “seek
clarity from Cubans on what they envision normalization to look like,
going beyond past rote responses such as ‘end the embargo.’ ” The office
said that the trip would “help develop a sense of what Cuba and the
United States are prepared to do to make a constructive relationship
The delegation is scheduled to meet with Cuban government officials,
Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino and ambassadors to Cuba from
Mexico, Spain, Norway and Colombia. The statement said the delegation
might meet with “representatives of Cuba’s civil society,” a term
referring to those working for reform within the communist political system.
It is the second trip to Cuba for Mr. Leahy in a month. In December, he
traveled there with two congressmen around the time Mr. Obama made the
surprise announcement about restoring diplomatic relations.
On that trip, Mr. Leahy picked up Alan P. Gross, a former government
contractor from Maryland who had been imprisoned there for five years.
Mr. Gross was released as part of the agreement between the United
States and Cuba that ended a half-century in which the countries had no
Melissa DeRosa, a spokeswoman for Mr. Cuomo, said he planned to lead a
trade mission to Cuba. “This is one of several such trips promoting New
York that he plans to take in the coming term,” she said.
The governor is expected to announce the mission formally on Wednesday
in his State of the State address, according to The Wall Street Journal,
which first reported the trip.
Mr. Cuomo gained a reputation in his first term as a homebody, rarely
traveling abroad. But during his campaign for a second term he took a
short trip to Israel to show support for the country amid conflict in
the Gaza Strip. Then he traveled to Afghanistan, saying he hoped to
learn about terrorism from the visit.
Michael S. Schmidt reported from Washington, and Susanne Craig from New
York. Randal C. Archibold contributed reporting from Havana.
Source: U.S. Lawmakers in Cuba for 3-Day Visit – NYTimes.com –