U.S. members of Congress expressed the need to continue the process, initiated by the Obama administration, toward the normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States, during a February 21 press conference at the U.S. Embassy in Havana.
The group, led by Democrat Senator and Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman, Patrick Leahy, arrived in Cuba last weekend, here to review –together with local authorities - changes in Washington’s policy toward the island since President Donald Trump assumed office in January 2017.
During the press conference, Leahy mentioned the meeting that he and his colleagues held yesterday with Cuban President, Raúl Castro, describing the encounter as extremely frank and pleasant, during which Cuba’s desire to continue improving bilateral relations, despite current circumstances was expressed.
The Senator for Vermont criticized the new direction taken by the Trump administration with regard to Cuba policy, and in particular measures related to the withdraw of diplomatic personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Havana and the expulsion of members of Cuba’s diplomatic corps from its headquarters in Washington.
This is a grave error which harms the interests of both governments and peoples and above all those who need to visit either country for family or business purposes, as well as so many other things that were frozen under the pretext of the health incidents reported by U.S diplomatic staff in the Cuban capital, noted Leahy.
Regarding this issue, the U.S. Senator highlighted the Cuban government’s cooperation in resolving the case and stated that he believes the island’s authorities do not have the slightest intention to harm U.S. citizens who visit Havana.
What is more he noted that not a single one of his colleagues had any fears about travelling to Cuba as they believe the island to be a safe place, and have even travelled here with their spouses, and in Leahy’s case, with his 13 year old granddaughter.
The group, which will return to the U.S. today, February 21, also includes senators Ron Wyden from Oregon and Gary Peters from Michigan, as well as House Representatives James McGovern (D-Massachusetts), Kathy Castor (D-Florida) who was not present during the press conference, and Susan Davis (D-California).
For his part McGovern criticized recent steps by the Trump administration to reduce the number of staff at the U.S and Cuban embassies as well as other changes by the White House which have had negative implications for bilateral relations, as they affect travel by Cuban and U.S. citizens to both countries.
On Monday, February 20, the Congressional delegation held a meeting with Director General for the United States at the Cuban Foreign Ministry, Carlos Fernández de Cossio, who thanked them for their efforts to improve relations.
The Cuban official also reiterated that no evidence of the alleged sonic attacks against U.S. diplomatic personnel in Havana exists, as sectors intent on preventing any advance in the normalization of relations between the two countries, are claiming.