Caribbean – U.S. Congressional Delegation Seeks Détente With Cuba Amid Setbacks In Bilateral Tie

Democratic-Senator-Patrick-Leahy
Cuban President Raul Castro received the delegation led by Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy at the presidential palace in Cuba on Tuesday.

News Americas, HAVANA, Cuba, Fri. Feb. 23, 2018: The U.S. congressional delegation to Cuba on Wednesday pledged to work for constructive ties and seek détente with the country amid currently spiraling tensions over the alleged “sonic attacks” on U.S. diplomats in Havana.

The delegation made the statement at a press conference before wrapping up their three-day Havana trip the same day.

Cuban President Raul Castro received the delegation led by Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy at the presidential palace on Tuesday, exchanging views on issues of common interest to address the setbacks besetting bilateral relations. Castro said Cuba is willing to continue the dialogue with the U.S. and resume the process to normalize bilateral ties based on mutual respect. But the Trump administration must change its Cuba policy, he added.

Leahy, a supporter of U.S.-Cuba ties, was accompanied by senators Ron Wyden and Gary Peters, and representatives Jim McGovern, Kathy Castor and Susan Davis during the trip.

The bi-cameral delegation also met with Cuban government officials and business leaders as part of a “fact-finding trip” about Washington’s foreign policy changes toward the island country.

The recent unexplained physical afflictions suffered by U.S. embassy personnel in Cuba, including hearing impairment, were high on the agenda. The incidents led Washington to scale back its embassy personnel and suspend granting visas.

 

The U.S. hasn’t formally accused Cuba of carrying out the attacks, but Trump said in October that he believed Havana was responsible for them. Cuba has constantly denied any responsibility.

“I got the impression that the Cubans have offered whatever cooperation we want in discovering what if anything happened. I don’t see where they have any advantage to do something to harm our personnel, so the result of it has been to harm relations between both countries,” Leahy said at Wednesday’s press conference before leaving for Washington D.C.

Leahy has been involved in efforts to “replace the failed 50-year-old U.S.-Cuba policy of isolation with a new path toward normalization,” according to his office.

McGovern underscored that the suspension of granting visas to Cubans went against the values that Americans cherish.

“A fundamental value in the United States is supporting families, and making it virtually impossible for the average Cuban to be able to go to the United States, whether it’s for funeral, or wedding, or to be able to be with their families, I think, betrays our values,” he said.

The two sides also discussed issues like bilateral cooperation, maritime security as well as human and drug trafficking

The rapprochement between the U.S. and Cuba that started in 2014 has been in stalemate since Trump took office a year ago. He takes a harder line toward the country, including imposing new restrictions on Cuba travel and increasing economic blockade. And the mysterious “attacks” have further led to partial closure of the U.S. embassy in Havana. (SOURCE: CCTV)