US Senator Patrick Leahy and Cuban President Raul Castro talk in Havana. Photo:
US Senator Patrick Leahy and Cuban President Raul Castro talk in Havana. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES — Cuban President Raul Castro met on Tuesday afternoon with a group of US senators and representatives visiting the island, among other things, to see US agent Alan Gross, imprisoned in Cuba since 2009, reported DPA news.

The delegation of five senators and two representatives is led by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, whose photograph with Castro ran Wednesday in Granma newspaper online.

The Cuban president and the US legislators “discussed matters of interest to both countries”, stated the Cuban TV news without going into any details.

The legislators are expected to pay a visit to Gross before leaving the island on Wedenesday.

Gross, 63, worked for a Development Alternatives Inc. covert “democracy building” project for USAID. He was sentenced in 2011 to 15 years in prison on charges of violating the Cuban state security.

The delegation includes representative Chris Van Hollen, who represents Gross’s district in Maryland.

Havana has tried to negotiate the release of Gross in a possible trade for the five Cuban agents imprisoned in the United States since 1998 on charges of espionage. On the island the Cuban Five are promoted as heroes for their mission to stymie terrorist attacks against Cuba from Miami-based exile groups.

Washington has thus far refused to link the two cases, preferring to insist that Cuba must release Gross unilaterally.

The overall goal of the congressional visit appears to be seeking out a path to improved US-Cuba relations, marked by over a half century of hostility.

The Gross and Cuban Five cases are the high profile topics but laying the groundwork that could lead to reestablishing diplomatic relations and bilateral trade is the far greater challenge to the Obama and Castro administrations.

“Every one of us has an interest in Cuba,” Leahy told the foreign press upon his arrival to Havana on Monday. “We all want to see relations improve and both sides take steps in that direction,” he added.

Since the early 1960s, the United States maintains an economic and financial embargo on Cuba seeking to bring down the Castro government through hardship. It also forbids ordinary US citizens from traveling to Cuba without a special US Treasury Dept. license.

The embargo, which includes third country sanctions for doing business with Cuba, is rejected by almost every country in the world, exemplified by last year’s 188-3 vote in the United Nations.

9 thoughts on “Cuba: Raul Castro meets with US senators

  • C’mon Griffin, we all know thats not true. US removed all restrictions in China and Vietnam because of the economic advantages of said relationships, pesky secondary considerations like being commie states or have awful human rights records were simply ignored in the name of the greater good.

    What you said is not true and you know about it, somewhere else I posted the numbers of party members and combined with the communist youth it was less than 20% of the population. Only the 10% of the voters are absentee or invalid ballots, so it means that the 70% are ok with the current state of affairs. Thats democracy working for you.

    And they do indeed have free elections, what you want is allow campaigning and the direct voting of all candidates, their human rights record is not as bad as other countries like China or Saudi Arabia but there is room for improvement, and even when freedom of speech remains an issue, what you are actually demanding is freedom of access to the mass media, since people like Yoani seems to express herself pretty freely already without too much fear for her person.

  • This is totally untrue. The Cuban government offered negotiations on all issues even after the Bay of Pigs. They offered to have talks to resolve the immigration issue and for a long while were ignored. When Raul came to power he offered to have talks without preconditions and also more recently offered the same including discussing the issue of democracy in both countries. Obama’s reaction was “…there is no point talking for the sake of talking…. only if in our national interests blah blah blah…”

  • The US imposed similar trade embargoes on Vietnam and China. They lifted these embargoes when those countries entered into meaningful negotiations with the US to resolve the disputes. The Us has offered similar negotiation with Cuba, which the Castros have refused.

    One point you wrote must be refuted absolutely: the Cuban people did not chose the system they live under. Castro promised free elections within months of the revolution and then broke that promise. The Cuban political and economic system was imposed in the Cuban people without their choice. All the US is demanding is that the Cuban people be given the right to free elections. free speech and human rights.

  • What’s what’s all this about Israel & the Palestinians? This thread is about US Senators visiting Cuba.

    Your contribution is to attack Moses and distract the conversation.

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