by Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES, April 4 — A US Congressional delegation arrived in Cuba on Friday and they are expected to do some unofficial leg work for their colleagues on Capitol Hill. The seven House Democrats meetings will most likely include Ricardo Alarcon de Quesada, president of the Cuban parliament and possibly President Raul Castro, although no such encounter has been announced.
The five-day trip takes on special significance as it comes when a growing bi-partisan consensus is building on Capitol Hill in support of a bill to lift the travel ban on all US citizens wanting to visit Cuba.
The delegation headed by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) is looking into the possibilities for exchange in culture, heath and academic exchanges as well as reviewing the trade and commerce possibilities.
“The election of President Barack Obama presents a great new opportunity to rethink U.S. foreign policy in many regions of the world,” said Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) told the Oakland Tribune.
Beside pressure to end the travel ban, this time around sentiment is also building to end the half century blockade that prohibits most trade and commerce. Nonetheless, the Obama administration has so far said it opposes dropping the time-worn policy of trying to obstruct Cuba’s economic development.
President Obama will have his first meeting together with Latin American and Caribbean leaders on April 17-19, at the Americas Summit in Trinidad and Tobago.
Vice President Biden and an administration spokesperson have insisted that Cuba should not be part of the agenda in Trinidad where it is the only excluded country. However, several other leaders, including the host country’s Prime Minister Patrick Manning see things differently.
Manning noted that “Cuba is on everybody’s lips” but also said, “We don’t want to corner anyone.”
Venezuelan President Chavez and Brazil’s Lula da Silva have led a chorus calling for Obama to seek rapprochement with Cuba and end the half century blockade of the island.