HAVANA – A delegation of US lawmakers headed by Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy said on Wednesday in Havana that progress in normalizing Washington’s ties with Cuba is “inevitable” and emphasized the willingness of President Raul Castro to continue the dialogue with the new US government.
The delegation, which arrived on the communist island on Feb. 19 and on Wednesday ends its working program in the Cuban capital, is comprised of several senators – Republican Sen. Thad Cochran (Mississippi), Democrats Tom Udall (New Mexico) and Michael Bennet (Colorado) – and Democratic Congressmen Jim McGovern and Seth Moulton, both of Massachusetts.
“It may not be the smoothest of paths but it will continue. I would not be here today on one more trip if I didn’t think that continuation of that progress is inevitable,” Leahy, who represents Vermont, told reporters.
Leahy, one of the US legislators who has been most active in matters of policy toward Cuba, emphasized the self-control exercised by the Cuban government in the face of statements by President Donald Trump that he wants to thoroughly review US policy toward Cuba.
He said that the Cubans have been very wise not to respond to every tweet and remark by Trump, adding that he thinks that there are many people in the new US administration who want the rapprochement with the island to continue and that is something that the president will hear from many members of Congress.
He also said at a news conference at the US Embassy that Cuban President Raul Castro “wants reform to continue, he wants the movement forwards to continue. The number of people he had from his administration talk to us made it very clear they want us to continue.”
Castro, he said, gave him and Cochran two signed copies of the declaration, translated into English, that he had read at the 5th Community of Latin American and Caribbean States conference in January in the Dominican Republic, where he had expressed Cuba’s desire to continue with a “respectful dialogue and cooperation on issues of common interest with the new government of President Donald Trump.”
McGovern said that the efforts to continue with the rapprochement with Cuba are coming from both Democrats and Republicans, adding that the move would continue and that interaction is preferable to isolation.
He also said that the move closer to Cuba is overwhelmingly popular among the American people, above all in the sectors of business, agriculture, education and science.
Cuba and the US in December 2014 launched a process of thawing their relationship, and this resulted in July 2015 with the reestablishment of diplomatic ties and the opening of embassies in each other’s capitals.