Washington – On the one-year anniversary of President Obama’s announcement that the United States was seeking to normalize relations with Cuba, Rep. Rosa DeLauro and 11 other House members re-established a bipartisan group to seek an end to remaining sanctions.

The Cuba Working Group was first formed more than 10 years ago to press for better U.S.–Cuba relations and an end to the embargo.  But a series of retirements thinned its ranks; and Cuba’s jailing of an Alan Gross, an American subcontractor to a U.S. Agency for International Development program, resulted in a disbanding of the group.

On Wednesday DeLauro said the Cuba Working Group was back in business.

“American interests are best served through greater engagement with Cuba,” she said. “By developing relationships with the Cuban people, business sector, and other institutions, the U.S. can participate constructively in a peaceful transition to democracy and a market-oriented economy on the island”

Other members of the working group are  Reps. Kathy Castor, D-Fla.; Kevin Cramer, R-N.D;  Rick Crawford, R-Ark.; Tom Emmer, R-Minn.; Sam Farr, D-Calif.: Barbara Lee, D-Calif; Jim McGovern, D-Mass.;Ted Poe, R-Texas; Reid Ribble, R-Wisc.; Mark Sanford, R-S.C. and Nydia Velázquez, D-N.Y.

The lawmakers announced the formation of the group in a letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.

The letter said “our goal is to raise the level of understanding inside of Congress for the need to build a new policy framework for U.S. and Cuban relations.”

A year ago, Obama moved to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba, cut off for more than 30 years, and to increase American travel and trade with the island, which is limited by sanctions.

Those sanctions can only be lifted by congressional action, which is not likely while Cuban President Raul Castro is in power and Fidel Castro is alive. Raul Castro has said he will step down in 2018.

On Wednesday the White House release a statement detailing the changes in U.S-Cuba relations in the past year.

“Change will not happen overnight, but we are moving in the right direction,” the White House statement said. “We will continue to pursue increased engagement between the United States and Cuba. We continue to believe that the legislatively-imposed U.S. embargo on Cuba is counter-productive and should be lifted. “

Ana has written about politics and policy in Washington, D.C.. for Gannett, Thompson Reuters and UPI. She was a special correspondent for the Miami Herald, and a regular contributor to The New York TImes, Advertising Age and several other publications. She has also worked in broadcast journalism, for CNN and several local NPR stations. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Journalism.

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