Cuba Policy Foundation Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Tuesday, December 3, 2002 Contact: Brian Alexander (202) 321-CUBA (2822)
CPF LEADS SUCCESSFUL CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION TO CUBA
STAFF OF BIPARTISAN HOUSE CUBA WORKING GROUP MEET CUBAN OFFICIALS, DISSIDENTS, & U.S. INTERESTS SECTION
Washington, D.C., December 3, 2002 – Congressional aides from fourteen offices of the House Cuba Working Group were in Havana, Cuba in November on a trip to broaden communication between the United States and Cuba and to expand Congressional knowledge of contemporary Cuba.
The trip, sponsored by the Cuba Policy Foundation, included seven Republican and seven Democratic offices of the bipartisan, forty-six member House Cuba Working Group, a Congressional coalition focused on the consequences of the four-decades old U.S. embargo of Cuba.
Among the delegation’s activities were meetings with Cuban dissidents who seek improved civil liberties and economic opportunities in Cuba. These included Osvaldo Paya, the founder of Project Varela, a petition signed by over 11,000 Cubans demanding that the Cuban government increase constitutionally based civil rights. Other dissident meetings included Marta Beatriz Roque, René Gómez and Felix Bonne, each of whom served time as political prisoners and who recently founded the opposition Assembly to Promote Civil Society.
The delegation also met with members of Cuba’s ministries of tourism, basic industry, foreign relations, and others. The group met with Pedro Alvarez, who heads Alimport, the Cuban agency that has overseen Cuba’s purchase of more than $200 million in American farm goods in 2002. The U.S. Interests Section, Havana, including the recently appointed chief of section, James Cason, also received the delegation.
“Despite longstanding disagreements between the United States and Cuba, four decades of an embargo have not led to solutions. Expanding communication, not continued isolation, is a productive step toward advancing U.S.-Cuban relations and toward addressing U.S. concerns about political liberties and economic reform in Cuba,” according to Brian Alexander, Executive Director of the Cuba Policy Foundation.
Mr. Alexander added, “U.S. policy must reflect the reality that 11 million people live in Cuba, not just one man. By opening lines of communication with Cuban officials as well as opponents of Castro’s government, Americans speak directly with those who will shape the future of Cuba and the future of the U.S.-Cuban relationship.”
This delegation is among the 26 visits to Cuba by members of Congress, 4 visits by U.S. Senators and 3 visits by U.S. state governors in 2002. Over 90 official U.S. delegations have traveled to Cuba this year, a signal of growing interest by U.S. policy and business leaders in expanding U.S. relations with Cuba.
This trip is one of a series of official delegations the Cuba Policy Foundation is leading to Cuba. Other trips include a visit by members of the California State Assembly and future trips with American political and business officials. The Cuba Policy Foundation is licensed by the U.S. Department of Treasury to travel to Cuba for collection of information related to Cuba for non-commercial purposes.
For more information, please contact Brian Alexander of the Cuba Policy Foundation.