Thursday, October 1, 2020

Raul Castro Meets with U.S. Lawmakers

The Associated Press reports that Cuban President Raul Castro met Monday with six visiting members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). These were his first face-to-face discussions with U.S. leaders since assuming the presidency last year.

The lawmakers came to talk with Castro about improving U.S.-Cuba relations amid rumors that Washington could possibly be ready to lift the 47-year-old trade embargo against the island.

Appearing in his olive-green fatigues, images of Castro appeared on state television sitting down with Rep. Barbara Lee, a California Democrat, who chairs the Caucus, and other CBC members.

Seven Democratic representatives traveled to Havana but an official communiquĂ© read on-air said only six attended the meeting with Castro. The statement provided no details on the discussion. It is also reported that CBC members met with the head of parliament and the country’s foreign minister.

Fidel Castro recently said that Cuba is not afraid to talk directly to the United States and that the communist government “does not thrive on confrontation” as long asserted by conservatives.

In a column published in the state-controlled newspaper earlier Monday, the 82-year-old former president declared his praise for U.S. Senator Richard Lugar because of his proposal to appoint a special envoy to reshape U.S.-Cuba relations.

Though the Castro brothers share distrust with Washington, both brothers are willing to engage in dialogue with U.S. leaders. In his column, the elder Castro said “dialogue is the only way to secure friendship and peace among peoples.”

“There is no need to emphasize what Cuba has always said: We do not fear dialogue with the United States,” he wrote. “Nor do we need confrontation to exist, as some foolish people think. We exist precisely because we believe in our ideas and we have never feared dialogue with the adversary.”

The ex-president saluted the members of the Congressional Black Caucus for traveling to the island, saying he “values the gesture of the legislative group.”

Democratic Rep. Mel Watt of North Carolina said that Fidel Castro’s words make it “clear that both countries can exist without either dialogue or adversity to each other.”

Watt added, “But wouldn’t it be so wonderful, if we struck a dialogue and found the things that were mutually advantageous and mutually of interest to our two countries and stopped the historical divisions that have separated us (though we are) so close geographically?”

*While the AP story reports only that members of the Congressional Black Caucus traveled to Cuba, other sources report that the CBC members were joined by Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA) who chairs the Congressional Asian Pacific Island American Caucus.

Associated Press

Voice of America

New York Times