CUBA: Congressional Delegation

From November 9-12, 2007, The Center for Democracy in the Americas (CDA) sponsored a trip to Cuba for a delegation that included Congressman Jim McDermott, a physician and psychiatrist, who is an acknowledged Congressional expert on health care policy.

The CDA’s mission is changing U.S. policy toward the countries of the Americas by basing our relations on respect, and fostering dialogue particularly with those governments and movements with which U.S. policy is at odds. CDA runs the Freedom to Travel to Cuba campaign which has brought more than two dozen delegations to Cuba since 2001. CDA has a Treasury Department license and complies with applicable ethics laws and rules as required by Congress.

This delegation was organized for two purposes.

The first was to learn more about political developments taking place in Cuba following speeches by acting Cuban president Raúl Castro and the U.S. president George Bush. The Castro speech, delivered July 26, 2007, triggered a broad debate in Cuba on matters ranging from economic reform to government inefficiencies. The Bush speech, delivered October 24, 2007 (which was translated, edited, and made available on Cuban media by the government to Cubans) reframed U.S. policy toward Cuba as no longer favoring “stability” on the island. The president instead predicted conflict and pledged to seek regime change and democracy.

The second purpose of the delegation was to focus on Cuba’s health care system, as a legacy of the Cuban revolution, whose efficacy is also being debated by Cubans today. On this visit to Cuba, the CDA delegation met with two of the country’s most powerful political leaders, with ambassadors to Cuba from Norway and Venezuela, with a variety of cultural and non-government figures, and with Cuban and foreign experts on the health care system. Several of the conversations were conducted on a “not for attribution” basis.