Friday, December 15, 2006

Largest Ever US Congressional Delegation Arrives in Cuba

U.S. Congresswoman Hilda Solis, D-California, talk to the media at the National Hotel in Havana, Friday, Dec.15, 2006

Boy, things are moving along fast in terms of the US relationshipo with Cuba and Venezuela.

Ten American lawmakers landed in Cuba today, led by U.S. Reps.Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and William Delahunt(D-Ma). Both have been outspoken advocates of dialogue with Cuba and the trip is seen as a momentum builder on the way to legislation that will roll back elements of the travel ban and embargo, which has been significantly tightened since Bush has been in office.

"We sense this is an important time and we hope to meet with officials and hopefully launch a new era in U.S.-Cuba relations," said Rep. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican.

The Bush administration, which opposes an apparent succession in Cuba, has rejected talks. The State Department opposed the trip. "The bottom line is, we think it is the right thing to do," said Rep. Jim McGovern. "I've long thought our policy toward Cuba has been arrogant and dumb."

This movement comes at a time when several Democrats who are skeptical of Bush's Cuba policies will chair committees that will give them a platform on Cuba matters, including New York Rep. Charles Rangel on the Ways and Means Committee, Michigan Rep. John Conyers on the House Judiciary Committee and Wisconsin Rep. David Obey on the House Appropriations Committee. In the Senate, Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden is expected to head the Foreign Relations Committee and Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, who once held up Treasury Department nominations to protest restrictions on U.S. trade with Cuba, probably will chair the Finance Committee.

MEANWHILE, in Caracas, the first meeting between the US Ambassador (W. Brownfield) to Venezuela and the Venezuelan Foriegn Minister (Maduro) has gone off without a hitch. Brownfield called the meeting "highly positive." However, he underscored, it is just the first step for bilateral talks. The Venzuelan minister labeled the event as "candid, very clear, we could say it was cordial, in spite of any tension that may arise when speaking honestly." The Venezuelan Government, he said, "has the height and maturity to talk respectfully, outspokenly, by means of conversation and exchange with the US Government."


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