House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and eight other members of a congressional delegation that recently headed to Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti, spoke positively of the trip at a press conference on Tuesday. They not only met with government officials in each country, but they also visited the Latin American School of Medicine in Cuba, and spoke with Cuban members of civil society. “People in the streets were very enthusiastic,” said Pelosi.
Members emphasized that the trip was based on conversations between the leaders of each respective country. During the discussions, which were reportedly especially “lively” in Haiti, there were agreements but there were also disagreements -- especially when it came to discussing human rights in Cuba.
The ball “is now in the Cuban government’s court,” said Rep. Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat. “For us to move forward they need to make some changes.”
No topic was left untouched in any country, said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Democrat from Connecticut. “Conversations were frank” and DeLauro, She stated that the trip was ultimately a cultural exchange and that she wanted to lead away from ‘failed’ policies of the past.
Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts encouraged establishing an embassy in Cuba and admonished the U.S. to end the embargo. He said that we need to “show Cuba and the world how a democracy functions, let us have a vote and a debate.”
While all the members of the delegation said that this was a historic moment, Steve Israel, a New York congressman, said that it was only “historic only if it leads to change.”
But for all the positivity and steps forward, Pelosi did say that the members of the delegation held “no illusions…it is a Communist country with a centralized economy.” Immediately after, she restated the need to end the embargo, however, emphasizing that ending it would be mutually beneficial in many respects.
Pelosi described the trip overall as “productive, it was positive, it was candid.”