Washington – While millions of Americans visit the beach, mountains or relatives this Memorial Day weekend, Rep. John Larson has packed his bags to go to Cuba.
Larson, D-1st District, will join the stream of lawmakers who have traveled to Havana since President Obama moved to normalize relations with Cuba late last year. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, made a separate trip in February.
Laron will travel to Cuba Saturday with Sens.Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Al Franken, D-Minn., and Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, D-Ariz. The Democrats will meet with Cuban and U.S. State Department officials, Cuban business owners and others “to discuss ways the United States can further open relations with Cuba through trade and tourism and by expanding opportunities for cultural exchange between American and Cuban citizens,” a joint release from the lawmakers said.
Larson’s trip will be paid for by the House Ways and Means Committee, a panel the Connecticut lawmaker belongs to.
Late last year, Obama relaxed the rules allowing Americans seeking trade opportunities and cultural contacts to spend money on travel to Cuba. A U.S. embargo outlaws most financial transactions with Cuba except for those that involve “purposeful travel” and the sales of U.S. food, agricultural products and medicine to Cuba — a humanitarian exemption.
Obama is also pressing for U.S. companies to participate in the development of the telecommunications infrastructure in Cuba, where few own computers or have access to the Internet.
Larson said he would pursue the expansion of telecommunication, ecotourism and marine conservation efforts.
Larson also said he would meet with curators of the 12th Havana Biennial program, which will feature artists from around the world in the first U.S.-Cuban exhibit.
Talks stalled this week on an effort to reopen embassies in Havana and Washington, but both sides said they would meet again.
Cuba said it wanted to be removed the State Department’s list of states that sponsor international terrorism. Obama decided last month to remove Cuba from the list but is required to give Congress 45 days’ notice before his decision takes effect.
The U.S. wants Cuban restrictions on the travels of U.S. diplomats lifted so they can move around Cuba freely and speak to whomever they wish. Cubans say this freedom would be used to spur dissent and help dissidents on the island.