Growing support in US Congress for lifting Cuba embargo
HAVANA, Cuba - There is growing bipartisan support in the US Congress for legislation that will lift restrictions to travel and agricultural trade with Cuba, asserted Tom Udall, the Democratic senator for New Mexico, during a visit to Havana.
On a visit to Cuba with other Democratic lawmakers, Udall said in a press conference on Wednesday that the most difficult task that lies ahead in relations between the two countries is the work in Congress, which is the body that can repeal the embargo legislation.
"In the Senate we're trying to eliminate the blockade with specific legislation, such as the lifting of the travel ban and agricultural trade, among others," he pointed out, adding that he was optimistic of making progress in that direction.
"The big question is how quickly we can do it,” he noted.
The majority of members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, support the lifting of restrictions to trips to Cuba.
He stressed that it does not mean this will happen tomorrow, while recalling that next year there will be a presidential campaign in the US, with the implications this brings.
"We are taking steps in this direction to achieve the approval of these initiatives," he specified.
Udall described as a key moment in history the process of reestablishment of bilateral relations and assured that there is support from the US people for the normalization of relations, although a lot remains to be done.
For his part, Senator Al Franken pointed out that great enthusiasm for the improvement of relations and the lifting of the embargo is apparent and confessed that he is among those in favour of eliminating this measure.
"Even in states like Florida there is great pressure for the normalization of relations with the island, although there is a small minority who has objections," he noted.
He reiterated that the majority of US citizens are in favour of reestablishing relations, but said that "in Congress we have much work ahead."
Similarly, he reiterated how beneficial the lifting of the embargo would be for an agricultural state like Minnesota – where he was elected senator – which would allow commercial exchanges.
In turn, Raul Grijalva, representative for Arizona, agreed with Udall in highlighting how impressed they were with their tour of the Zapata Swamp.
"We can work together on the issue of protected areas. Our tour of the Swamp really impressed us," he underlined.
In that sense, Udall identified two key areas where the two countries can cooperate: tourism and environmental conservation and cultural exchanges.
"We participated in the Biennial Exhibition and for the first time five Cuban artists and the same number of US creators have worked together in this meeting. Cultural exchanges are one of the ways friendship and understanding between peoples can deepen," stressed the senator from New Mexico.
For his part, John Larson, representative for Connecticut, recalled the words of President John Kennedy decades ago, when he said: "Although we cannot end our differences right now, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. Because the final analysis is the following: our most basic common link is that we all live in this small planet; we all breathe the same air; we all cherish our children's future; and we are all mortal."
The four agreed that their stay in Cuba was very productive. The delegation has been in Havana for five days and has held several exchanges with officials of the ministries for foreign trade and investment, foreign affairs and agriculture, members of the self-employed sector, of small cooperatives, and with investors from foreign countries on the island.
Caption: US congressional delegation visiting Havana this week