Members of the Congressional Black Caucus will travel to Cuba on Friday in another sign of federal lawmakers’ interest in easing a long-standing trade embargo and travel restrictions.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said the trip is designed to demonstrate to Cubans that the American people are interested in building a new relationship with them.
“Diplomacy and a new way of looking at our foreign policy just makes sense,” said Lee, chairwoman of the caucus.
Visits to Cuba by members of Congress are hardly new, but some lawmakers believe the election of President Barack Obama presents a new opportunity to open up trade and tourism. Business and farm groups are backing the lawmakers’ efforts.
On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the Senate announced their support for legislation that would prevent the president from stopping travel to Cuba except in cases of war, imminent danger to public health or threats to the physical safety of U.S. travelers. An identical bill in the House has 120 co-sponsors.
Lee said she did not believe that improved economic relations with Cuba would strengthen the communist government at the expense of the Cuban people.
“It’s a country that we’ve had an embargo against for what, 40 years, but it hasn’t worked,” Lee said. “American citizens should have a right to travel to determine their own points of view.”
Lee said her top priority when addressing U.S.-Cuba relations would be on easing travel restrictions.