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April 8th, 2009
09:56 AM ET

Castro: Cuban people want "normal relations"

Congresswoman Barbara Lee discusses the Congressional Black Caucuses' meeting with Fidel and Raul Castro.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee discusses the Congressional Black Caucuses' meeting with Fidel and Raul Castro.

Cuba’s former dictator, Fidel Castro, has met with U.S. Officials for the first time since he became ill in 2006. He met with members of the Congressional Black Caucus in Havana. This meeting comes as the Obama administration is reportedly considering possibly ending a half-century of Cold War isolation.

Representative Barbara Lee is the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and one of the three members who met with Fidel and Raul Castro. She spoke with Kiran Chetry on CNN’s American Morning on Wednesday.

Kiran Chetry: This is a subject of intense interest because we have not seen Fidel Castro, the former Cuban dictator, in so long. When you met with him, how did he look?

Barbara Lee: He looked fine. Of course, he's been ill, but I can tell you one thing, he was very energetic, very clear thinking. He knew what we had been doing while we were in Cuba. He knew our mission. He recognized who we were. And he was very engaging. We discussed quite a few subjects. Of course, bottom line is we wanted to talk more about normal relations between our two countries and how he viewed diplomacy and discussions and dialogue as it relates to ending the embargo against Cuba. It was very interesting because he said, like President Raul Castro said the night before, that the Cuban people want normal relations, dialogue without preconditions. And we know here in our own country that 68 percent of the American people want normal relations with Cuba.

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Filed under: Cuba
March 31st, 2009
10:00 AM ET

Cuba travel ban to be lifted?

CNN's Jim Acosta reports some senators are moving to lift the ban on travel to Cuba.
CNN's Jim Acosta reports some senators are moving to lift the ban on travel to Cuba.

One of the stories I’ve tried to follow through most of my career is Cuba. My dad came to the U.S. just two weeks before the Cuban Missile Crisis. So, I’m drawn to just about any story on the island. With so much attention on the financial crisis these days, it may have slipped past a good number of Americans that U.S. policy toward Cuba may be changing right before our eyes.

A key bi-partisan group of U.S. Senators is pushing a bill in Congress that would lift the ban on travel to Cuba. Travel agents in Miami, who specialize in trips to Cuba, are already laying the groundwork for what would be a flood of mojito-thirsty Americans.

But before you pack your bags, the “Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act” still faces stiff opposition from Cuban-Americans in Congress. And the President has yet to say what he thinks of the idea. Vice President Joe Biden recently said in Chile that U.S. policy on Cuba is in transition.

One interesting sidebar to note: America’s 47 year old embargo on the island is still in place. So if the travel ban is lifted, Cuba expert Dan Erikson cautions, Americans may have to settle on driving in Chinese buses and staying in Spanish owned hotels. In other words, there would be no Marriotts or Hiltons to speak of.


Filed under: Cuba • Politics
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