CUBA STANDARD — U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Tampa) is leading a seven-member bipartisan Congressional delegation to Cuba that examines progress made since the restoration of full diplomatic relations last year, strategize how to get Congress to ease sanctions, and scout for business opportunities for her district.
Accompanied by Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Mn.), Castor left from Tampa International Airport Saturday morning, after a press conference 11:15 at the airport.
The delegation also includes John Garamendi (D-Cal.), Paul Gozar (R-Az.), Mike Bishop (R-Mich.), Alan Lowenthal (D-Cal.), and Brendan Boyle (D-Penn.).
Since 2009, Castor has gradually stepped up her Cuba advocacy to eventually become an outright advocate of ending the embargo, a first for a sitting Florida Congressperson.
Last year, Castor and Emmer were co-sponsors of a bill to lift the Cuban embargo altogether. Castor and Emmer are co-chairs of the House Bipartisan Cuba Working Group, started late last year to press for normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations.
Castor plans to meet with cuentapropistas to find out whether the openings have helped them.
“We want to see what’s happening with private business there in the small business sector, and then we’re also going to talk about travel and trade and internet expansion and human rights,” Castor told WFLA Channel 8. “It’s very important for us to understand whether or not the restoration of diplomatic ties between Cuba and the United States are working for everyday Cubans.”
Castor told WFLA she also plans to meet with port officials in Havana to talk about business opportunities. Several companies have proposed ferry service between Florida ports and Havana.