Cuban president meets U.S. Congress delegation

HAVANA, Feb. 22

Cuban President Raul Castro met with a visiting delegation of U.S. senators and representatives here on Tuesday to exchange views on “issues of common interest” amid a setback in bilateral ties.

According to a short press release from the Cuban Government, Castro received the U.S. Congressional delegation led by Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy at the presidential palace.

Leahy, a supporter of U.S.-Cuba ties, was accompanied by senators Ron Wyden and Gary Peters, as well as representatives Jim McGovern and Susan Davis.

The delegation began a three-day visit to Cuba on Monday by meeting with Carlos Fernandez de Cossio, new director general of the United States Department at the Cuban Foreign Ministry, and other officials as part of a “fact-finding trip” about Washington’s foreign policy changes toward the island country.

The topics of discussion include the recent unexplained physical afflictions suffered by U.S. embassy personnel in Cuba, which led to the partial closure of Washington’s embassy in Havana and suspension of granting visas to Cubans.

The United States hasn’t formally accused Cuba of carrying out the attacks, but President Donald Trump said in October that he believed Havana was responsible for them. Cuba has constantly denied any responsibility.

Other issues like bilateral cooperation on maritime security, search and rescue, narcotics, human trafficking, and immigration are also on the agenda.

Leahy’s office said he has been involved in efforts to replace “the failed 50-year-old U.S.-Cuba policy of isolation with a new path toward normalization.”

The delegation will hold a press conference on Wednesday morning before returning to Washington the same day.

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