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U.S. Representative Fudge from Cleveland, Cuyahoga County visits Cuba, meets President Raúl Castro and supports open travel legislation


By Alan Abrams, La Prensa Senior Correspondent

U.S. Representative Marcia Fudge from Cleveland, Cuyahoga County visits Cuba, meets President Raúl Castro and supports open travel legislation.

La Habana, Cuba: “I can say that the U.S. boycott of Cuba has in fact hurt the people of Cuba, but it has also hurt us because we have not had the opportunity to have the kind of trade we should with a neighbor that is just 90 miles off our coast.”


So said U.S. Representative Marcia L. Fudge (OH-11) in an interview with La Prensa on April 8, 2009, the day following her return to Washington, D.C. from a five-day legislative trip to Cuba as a member of a Congressional Black Caucus delegation.


Fudge’s 11th Congressional District represents many Latino residents in 22 Cuyahoga County municipalities.


The seven-member delegation met with Cuban President Raúl Castro, marking his first official meeting with a congressional delegation since taking office last year.  Three of the senior members of the caucus met with Fidel Castro, his first known meeting with visiting officials since he became ill in 2006.


There have been other visits to Cuba by members of the Congressional Black Caucus, but this one holds particular significance because it came three days after a bipartisan group of senators proposed legislation that would prevent President Barack Obama from stopping travel to Cuba except in extreme cases. An identical bill in the House has 120 co-sponsors.


Although new legislation has already made it easier for Cuban-Americans to visit their relatives on the island annually instead of once every three years under the George W. Bush regime, President Obama has still not publicly endorsed doing away with the 47-year-old trade embargo in its entirety and normalizing relations with Cuba.


“We promised to the people of Cuba that we will be doing all in our power as members of the Caucus to encourage the State Department and the White House to take a serious look at the embargo,” said Fudge.

She explained that the goal of the embargo “was to isolate Cuba, but we have isolated ourselves instead from the rest of the world who has accepted Cuba for what Cuba is.


“The trade embargo has actually been hurting the people of Cuba. Given the state of the economy today, I would love to see us do business with Cuba in the way that the rest of the world has done. Our closest allies including Canada and Germany all do business with Cuba. We need to keep an open mind on this issue,” explained Fudge.


Fudge said the Caucus is “preparing a report within this week for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama” in advance of this weekend’s 34-nation Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago April 17-19, 2009, where the subject of travel restrictions to Cuba is certain to be on the agenda.  

Marcia L. Fudge (OH-11)


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. 





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