Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has indicated he will broach the subject of relaxed trade and travel restrictions to President Obama during the summit.
Asked whether she or other members of the Caucus were able to meet with the island’s Afro-Cubans during their visit, Fudge said, “I am aware of those relationships. However our trip was so fast and was even cut a day short. I am clearly aware that many issues exist. I am planning on addressing them on our next trip. There are so many things we can do,” said Fudge.
In a written statement released by her office upon her return, Fudge said, “The United States is entering a new phase of foreign relations. It is time for a new way forward and a new approach to our relationship with Cuba. They want very much for us to extend a hand of friendship. I believe that engagement and earnest discussions towards reconciliation should take place.
“I am a co-sponsor of legislation that will give all Americans the ability to travel to Cuba. Cuba is a mere 90 miles away from our coast. The United States already has a presence on the island and open or free travel encourages the free exchange of ideas, which has been known to silently tear down walls, both literally and figuratively.
“Further, the United States should explore the opportunity to gain access to another trade market. With our current economic situation, our businesses and industries would welcome the opportunity that would come with the lifting of the trade embargo,” said Fudge
The other members of the Congressional Black Caucus delegation were delegation leader Barbara Lee (D-CA), Mel Watt (D-NC), Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Bobby Rush (D-IL), Laura Richardson (D-CA), and Mike Honda (D-CA).
Honda is a member of the Asian and Pacific Caucus and Fudge explained that he had to return to California early because of a family emergency.
She added that she works closely with other Congressional caucuses “of similar interests” including the Hispanic Caucus and the Asian and Pacific Caucus.
The group also met with Foreign Relations Minister Bruno Rodríguez and Ricardo Alarcón, the head of parliament, among other officials.
Fudge was elected to the U.S. Congress on November 18, 2008, to fill the seat of her friend and mentor, the late Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones. Fudge had served as her chief of staff during her terms in congress.
Fudge, who holds a law degree from Cleveland State University, became the first African-American mayor of Warrensville Heights in 2000 and won public praise from then-Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell for her work.
Editor’s Note: On April 13, 2009, the White House disclosed that President Barack Obama will lift all travel and remittance restrictions for some 1.5 million Cuban-Americans who have relatives in Cuba; these restrictions were imposed by former President George W. Bush in 2004. However, the almost 5-decade embargo against Cuba by the United States of America will remain, despite the vast majority of the world trading with Cuba. This archaic U.S. embargo is bound to be a sore point at the April 17-19 Latin American and Caribbean Summit in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, since all Latin American countries are on record for lifting the U.S. embargo against Cuba.