Do Cuba and the United States Need to Rebuild Trust? / Ivan Garcia

Nancy Pelosi and fellow US Congress Democrats at a press conference in Havana

Ivan Garcia, 20 February 2015 — Fifty Cuban and foreign journalists attended the press conference that a delegation of congressional Democrats headed by Nancy Pelosi held on the afternoon of Thursday, February 19 outside the residence of Lynn Roche, the U.S. Interest Section’s public affairs officer.

Nancy Pelosi, born in Maryland in 1940, traveled to Havana with representatives Eliot Engel, Nydia Velazquez and Steve Israel (New York), David Ciciline (Rhode Island), Rosa DeLauro (Connecticut), Collin Peterson (Minnesota), Anna Eshoo (California ) and Jim McGovern (Massachusetts). Pelosi and members of her delegation support removing Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism and permanently lifting the U.S. embargo.

Other issues of mutual interest discussed at the conference included increased access to telecommunications, empowering small businesses, agricultural development and human rights.

Jim McGoven believes reconciliation between the two governments is the best way to reach an agreement on human rights. “I think that we can probably accomplish a lot more if we have a relationship based on mutual respect,” said McGovern.

Pelosi agreed with her colleague, adding, “Both countries need to rebuild mutual trust.”

During their three-day visit to Havana, the U.S. delegation stayed at the centrally located Hotel Saratoga and held meetings with chancellor Bruno Rodriguez, National Assembly president Ana Maria Machado and about twenty deputies, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, a group small private-sector business owners and Josefina Vida, Cuba’s lead negotiator in talks with the United States.

As of this writing, neither Nancy Pelosi nor any members of her delegation have met with Cuban dissidents. The new political landscape has divided the opposition. Activists such as Elizardo Sanchez and Jose Daniel Ferrer approve of the approach taken by President Obama. On the other hand, dissidents such as Antonio Rodiles and Berto Soler disagree with the White House policy.

The exchange with congressional Democrats was attended foreign correspondents as well as official and independent Cuban journalists. It was the third time that representatives of state and independent media outlets met at a press conference since December 17, when a historic diplomatic development was announced between two governments whose differences seemed irreconcilable.

The visit led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi took place a week before officials from Cuba and the United States begin a second round of negotiations on Friday, February 27 in Washington. The first round took place in Havana in January.

Meanwhile, average Cubans have lowered any expectations they may have had over the improvement in relations between the two countries. To Yosuan, a Havana taxi driver, “it all sounds very nice but it’s unrelated to the needs of people on the street.”

Ivan Garcia and Celeste Matos reporting from Havana.

Photo: Marti Noticias.