CUBA: Congressional Staff Delegation

From June 28-July 2, 2008, The Center for Democracy in the Americas (CDA) sponsored a trip to Cuba. The delegation included both our staff and five senior staff experts from the U.S. Congress.

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. The CDA runs the Freedom to Travel to Cuba campaign which has brought more than two dozen delegations to Cuba since 2001. The CDA has a Treasury Department license and complies with applicable ethics laws and rules as required by Congress.

This was the fourth research delegation sponsored by the CDA in 2008 that has coincided with the transfer of power from Fidel Castro to Raúl Castro and the process of reform initiated by Cuba’s new president.

On this trip, the delegation was able to meet with and interview several senior members of Cuba’s National Assembly who are involved in the reform process; Cuba’s foreign relations ministry; Alimport, (Cuba’s food import company); diplomats from three foreign embassies (two European, and the U.S. Interests Section); a foreign critic of the Cuban government; three foreign journalists; a leader from civil society; a leading Cuban musician; and Cuban citizens in Havana and Viñales.

The questions we asked on this trip were focused primarily on Cuba’s reform process and U.S. policy. Why are the reforms occurring? What is the role of Cuba’s senior leadership? Are the reforms significant? Is foreign policy also a part of the reform process? What about human rights? Is U.S. foreign policy relevant or effective? What are the future prospects for relations between the United States and Cuba? Will the reforms succeed?