01.22.15

Photos From Senator Patrick Leahy’s Recent Meetings In Cuba

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) from Jan. 17 to Jan. 19 led the first congressional delegation to Cuba following the President’s announced policy change on December 17, the day Leahy escorted Alan Gross home, after Gross spent five years in a Cuban prison.  Leahy and his delegation of four senators and two House members (including Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt.) were in Havana for three days of meetings.  They met with Cuban officials to discuss expectations for the normalization of relations, to explore opportunities for greater cooperation, and to encourage Cuban officials to address issues of concern to the American people.  They met with Cuban reformers and activists who have bravely voiced their criticisms of the Castro regime and have been punished for that.  They met with Cardinal Jaime Ortega who, at Leahy’s request, played a role in Pope Francis’s involvement in the U.S.-Cuba breakthrough.  They also met with the ambassadors of other governments in Havana.     

The delegation included Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who headed the delegation; Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.); Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.); Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.); Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.); and Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.).

A gallery of photos from the Office of Senator Leahy is available at the link, below.  Descriptions of the photos is also below.  Leahy took some of the photos; for the ones in which Leahy is pictured, photo credit is “Office of Senator Patrick Leahy.”

Leahy said:  “It was important to go to Cuba soon after the President announced his Cuba policy decision, to hear the reactions of the Cuban people and to discuss the process ahead with government officials.  We spoke to people on the streets of Havana and to activists who have suffered for speaking out against the policies of the Castro government.  Some are unhappy with the President’s decision, but what we heard most of all is that this has given them hope – something the Cuban people have not had for a very, very long time.”

Leahy continued, “With Cuban government officials, we discussed practical steps both governments can take to begin the normalization process.  It will take time, after 53 years of a policy that has not worked.  But we and the Cuban people believe it offers a far better chance of helping them improve their lives and for Cuba to become a more open, freer society.”