Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    U.S. Lawmakers in Cuba for 3-Day Visit

    U.S. Lawmakers in Cuba for 3-Day Visit

    WASHINGTON — A delegation of American legislators led by Senator Patrick
    J. Leahy arrived in Cuba on Saturday to discuss greater cooperation and
    remaining areas of disagreement, the first congressional delegation to
    visit the island nation since President Obama announced last month that
    he was restoring full diplomatic ties with it.

    “We are going this time to discuss our expectations, and the Cubans’
    expectations, for the normalization of relations,” Mr. Leahy, Democrat
    of Vermont, said in a statement. “We want to explore opportunities for
    greater cooperation, and to encourage Cuban officials to address issues
    of real concern to the American people and to their representatives in

    Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, who has recently shown an interest in
    foreign travel as a way to drum up business at home, is also planning a
    trip to Cuba, his office said on Saturday.

    Accompanying Mr. Leahy on his three-day trip are other Democratic
    members of Congress: Senators Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, Debbie
    Stabenow of Michigan and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, and
    Representatives Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Peter Welch of Vermont.

    In the statement, Mr. Leahy’s office said the trip was intended to “seek
    clarity from Cubans on what they envision normalization to look like,
    going beyond past rote responses such as ‘end the embargo.’ ” The office
    said that the trip would “help develop a sense of what Cuba and the
    United States are prepared to do to make a constructive relationship

    The delegation is scheduled to meet with Cuban government officials,
    Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino and ambassadors to Cuba from
    Mexico, Spain, Norway and Colombia. The statement said the delegation
    might meet with “representatives of Cuba’s civil society,” a term
    referring to those working for reform within the communist political system.

    It is the second trip to Cuba for Mr. Leahy in a month. In December, he
    traveled there with two congressmen around the time Mr. Obama made the
    surprise announcement about restoring diplomatic relations.

    On that trip, Mr. Leahy picked up Alan P. Gross, a former government
    contractor from Maryland who had been imprisoned there for five years.
    Mr. Gross was released as part of the agreement between the United
    States and Cuba that ended a half-century in which the countries had no
    formal ties.

    Melissa DeRosa, a spokeswoman for Mr. Cuomo, said he planned to lead a
    trade mission to Cuba. “This is one of several such trips promoting New
    York that he plans to take in the coming term,” she said.

    The governor is expected to announce the mission formally on Wednesday
    in his State of the State address, according to The Wall Street Journal,
    which first reported the trip.

    Mr. Cuomo gained a reputation in his first term as a homebody, rarely
    traveling abroad. But during his campaign for a second term he took a
    short trip to Israel to show support for the country amid conflict in
    the Gaza Strip. Then he traveled to Afghanistan, saying he hoped to
    learn about terrorism from the visit.

    He has recently said he is considering trade missions to Canada, China,
    Italy and Mexico in the coming years.

    Michael S. Schmidt reported from Washington, and Susanne Craig from New
    York. Randal C. Archibold contributed reporting from Havana.

    Source: U.S. Lawmakers in Cuba for 3-Day Visit – –