Congressional trips to Cuba in doubt as US interest surges
BY BRADLEY KLAPPER ASSOCIATED PRESS
02/05/2015 12:56 PM 02/05/2015 12:56 PM
A series of trips to Cuba by U.S. lawmakers is in doubt amid questions
over the communist government’s eagerness or ability to accommodate a
surge of new interest and possible investment from the United States.
American officials said the Cuban government has pushed off all
congressional visits, including one by House Minority Leader Nancy
Pelosi, until at least mid-April. The Cuban Interests Section in
Washington said some will go forward in the coming days, but others are
Several members of Congress had planned to go to the island country this
month. They included Pelosi, a California Democrat, and Sen. Jeff Flake,
an Arizona Republican, who has proposed ending the U.S. travel embargo
President Raul Castro’s government has been scrambling to adjust to the
possibility of new U.S. travel and investment in Cuba since he and
President Barack Obama announced in December that the two countries
would repair ties after a half-century of enmity.
And in a surprise development, Obama administration officials said they
were informed by their Cuban counterparts earlier this week that no
congressional visits would be allowed to travel to Cuba until April 15.
They spoke on condition anonymity because they were not authorized to
speak on the record.
The Cuban Interests Section in Washington rejected that account, saying
some delegations would be arriving in the next days. Pelosi’s office had
no immediate comment.
A Cuban government spokesman, who demanded anonymity because he wasn’t
authorized to talk publicly, said Cuba is receiving a large number of
requests for visits. As a result, he said, the government is “arranging
for the best possible dates for their visits so they get the attention
they deserve in the middle of the many tasks we are facing at this
moment in Cuba.”
Many of the trips aim to explore new business opportunities as part of
the thaw in U.S.-Cuban tensions. The administration last month
significantly eased the 54-year economic embargo of Cuba, allowing U.S.
telecommunications exports for the first time and ending a restriction
on American credit and debit card transactions on the island.
Cubans are still trying to gauge the potential effects of the changes.
U.S. companies also are still trying to make sense of the new
regulations and much remains unclear. Only Congress has the power to
fully lift the embargo, a step Obama is calling for but Republican
leaders in the House and Senate oppose.
The most immediate objective of U.S.-Cuban diplomacy right now is
The U.S. had been seeking to clinch an agreement before the Summit of
the Americas in Panama. The meeting of Western Hemisphere nations takes
place April 10-11 and could bring Obama and Castro together for a
But the U.S. says Cuba must first end restrictions on American
diplomats, shipments to the current U.S. Interests Section in Havana and
entrance by Cubans to that building for embassies to be restored.
Cuba’s most pressing demand is an end to banking restrictions, many of
which are linked to its U.S. designation as a “state sponsor of
terrorism.” The Obama administration is likely to lift Cuba from that
list in the next months.
Source: Congressional trips to Cuba in doubt as US interest surges | The
Miami Herald The Miami Herald –