Sunday, June 28, 2015

U.S. senators visit Cuba, hope Congress will ease restrictions

U.S. senators visit Cuba, hope Congress will ease restrictions

Three visiting U.S. senators said on Saturday they hoped Congress would
support President Barack Obama's opening toward Cuba, including lifting
a ban on U.S. citizens traveling to the Communist-run island.

Democratic Senators Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Ben Cardin of Maryland
joined Republican Dean Heller of Nevada on a trip to Cuba where they met
First Vice-President Miguel Diaz-Canel, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez
and ordinary Cubans.

A number of Cuba initiatives are pending in the Senate, including a bill
to remove the travel ban on Americans and a more ambitions bill to
rescind the decades-old U.S. economic embargo.

Obama, a Democrat, has called on Congress to act but the legislation is
opposed by the Republican leadership in control of the Senate and the
House of Representatives.

Earlier this month, the House rejected a measure that would have relaxed
travel restrictions. But the senators said there were better prospects
for progress on Cuba legislation in their chamber.

"We think that can be achieved this year and we can make additional
progress next year," Cardin told a news conference. "We're optimistic
this path that President Obama and President (Raul) Castro started will
be continued."

Heller, one of a few Republican senators to side with Obama on Cuba,
encouraged members of Congress to visit Cuba and engage with ordinary
Cubans. "I think the Senate can move the House, but the Senate's going
to have to act first," Heller told Reuters after the news conference.

Currently, some Americans may travel to Cuba with official permission
but general tourism is banned.

Breaking decades of Cold War-era hostility, Obama and Castro announced
plans last December to restore diplomatic ties that Washington severed
in 1961, and to work toward normalizing overall relations. An
announcement on reopening embassies in both capitals is expected soon.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Source: U.S. senators visit Cuba, hope Congress will ease restrictions |
Reuters -

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