Growing consensus in US Congress against embargo on Cuba

Updated: 2015-05-28 16:30


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Growing consensus in US Congress against embargo on Cuba

US Senator Tom Udall speaks during a news conference in Havana, May 27, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]

HAVANA - US Democratic Senator Tom Udall said in Havana Wednesday that there is a growing bipartisan consensus in Congress in favor of lifting the longtime economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba.

"We are trying at the Senate to remove the embargo with specific legislations such as the lifting of the bans on traveling and agricultural trade, among other things," the senator for the US State of New Mexico said at a press conference, adding one could be "optimistic" in that sense.

The majority of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, support lifting the travel restrictions to Cuba, Udall said, noting that it does not mean this will happen tomorrow.

Udall led a congressional delegation to visit Cuba starting Saturday. The group also includes Senator Alan Stuart, and the members of the House of Representatives Raul Grijalva and John B. Larson, all of them of the Democratic Party.

"The big question is how quickly we can do it," Udall said, pointing out that a presidential campaign will be held next year in the United States.

Udall described the process of resuming US-Cuba diplomatic relations as a "key moment in history", emphasizing that many Americans support the move, though there is still a lot to be done.

During their stay in Cuba, the US congressmen met with officials of the ministries of agriculture, foreign affairs, foreign trade and foreign investment, as well as with representatives of state-owned companies and private entrepreneurs.

Describing these contacts as "very productive", Udall said that the delegation found that there has been considerable progress in improving Cuba-US ties since last Dec 17, when Cuban President Raul Castro and US President Barack Obama announced the decision to restore diplomatic relations. The two sides broke off relations in 1961.

The senator said that in just two days on Friday, the deadline will expire for Congress to try to stop Obama's decision to withdraw Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Obama announced on April 14 that he had decided to remove Cuba from the list.

Udall stressed that this decision has not been questioned to date and should become effective in the coming days.

Removing Cuba from the list would eliminate the first obstacle demanded by the island to resume formal ties, and the next step will be opening embassies, he said.

The process of the two governments for restoring diplomatic relations "is almost finished" and embassies will open "within weeks," the congressman said.

Since December, delegations of the two countries have held three rounds of negotiations on restoring diplomatic relations and the opening of embassies in Havana and Washington.