DeLauro Calls for Normalized U.S.-Cuba Relations

By Mary E O'Leary | New Haven Register (New Haven, CT), February 24, 2015 | Go to article overview

DeLauro Calls for Normalized U.S.-Cuba Relations


Mary E O'Leary, New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)


WASHINGTON » U.S. Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, D-3, after her recent trip as part of a Democratic congressional delegation to Cuba, said it is in the best interest of both countries to move toward normalizing relations.

This is her third trip to Cuba since 2007 and she said there is bipartisan support for change.

President Obama on Dec. 17, after 18 months of secret talks aided by Pope Francis, ordered the opening of an embassy in Cuba and said he hopes for the lifting of a 54-year-old trade embargo, but that is not his purview and would have to be approved by the Republican- controlled Congress.

The beginning of change was possible after Cuba agreed to release Alan Gross, an American contractor who had been imprisoned in Cuba since 2009.

Cuba promised to release 53 political prisoners and the U.S. said it would ease banking and travel rules.

"We can't be buried in the past. We have to move into the future," DeLauro said. "We have 50 years of policy that has failed."

She said they met with Cuban First Vice President Miguel Diaz- Canel, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and Josefina Vidal, who is leading the talks for Cuba,

They also saw ambassadors from 12 countries, Catholic Cardinal Jaime Ortega and the head of the Jewish community, as well as journalists, bloggers and small-business owners.

She said they are difficult issues to be worked out.

"No one has their head in the sand, but no one wants to miss this opportunity," DeLauro said.

DeLauro said the issues are to move ahead with the embassy, let Cuba come off the terrorist list so investments can be made there and for the U.S. to lift the embargo.

She said the foreign ambassdors in Cuba said interaction with United States, both culturally and for commerce, would put pressure on Cuba to open up its society. The congresswoman said she sees opportunities for Connecticut's manufacturing sector to benefit.

DeLauro said they had frank discussions about the lack of human rights in Cuba.

"This (the agreement) doesn't exonerate Cuba," she said.

DeLauro said Cuba, however, is held to a different standard to countries like China and Vietnam, a place where 57,000 Americans lost their lives, but is a nation with which the president wants to increase trade.

She said Obama, as part of the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership, has included Brunei, where Sharia law is enforced and the gay community is persecuted. DeLauro however, has been one of the leaders protesting this trade pact on environmental, labor and food safety concerns.

"We do business with China every day. ... The point is, let us take this moment to move forward, to open up diplomatic relations, to have conversations about human rights," she said of Cuba.

Cuban-Americans who oppose the changes without Cuba agreeing to human rights reforms are not convinced, and point to continuing arrests of Cuban activists, even as U.S. representatives visit that country.

Carlos Eire, who escaped Cuba as a child, wrote this week in the blog Babalu, that more than 200 dissidents had been arrested over a 24-hour period, including members of the Women in White, an ongoing protest group, whose husbands or sons have been imprisoned or are missing. …

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