Fidel Castro to Congressional Black Caucus members: 'How can we help President Obama?'
How's this for hope and change: U.S. officials flying to Cuba, not to interrogate prisoners at Guantanamo Bay but to meet with the Castro brothers in order to ease the 50-year tensions between the two nations.
The aging, ailing, cigar-smoking icon Fidel Castro had three members of Congress visit with him today in Havana, which resulted in the bearded one asking, "How can we help President Obama?" In an effort to improve the relationship between Cuba and the U.S., Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) and Emanuel Cleaver II (D-Mo.) were the first U.S. officials to meet with the 82-year-old former dictator since his intestinal surgery in July 2006.
Greg Adams of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana confirmed that the three members of the Congressional Black Caucus met with Castro, who handed the communist torch to his brother Raul in early 2007. Cuban state television is expected to release more details of the meeting tonight, Adams said.
Six members of the caucus met with Raul Castro on Monday for more than four hours. That meeting was also a first, as he had not yet met with any U.S. officials since he became the Cuban in charge.
"I'm convinced Raul Castro wants a normal relationship with the United States," Lee said after the meeting with the 77-year-old, the Associated Press reported. "He's serious."
"I think that what really surprised me, but also endeared me to him, was his keen sense of humor, his sense of history and his basic human qualities," Rush said. "I intend to do everything that I can when we get back to the States to make sure that normalization with our relationship with Cuba is given proper consideration both within the House of Representatives and the neighborhoods of America."
According to Lee's official website, the other members of the delegation were Reps. Melvin Watt (D-N.C.), Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio), Michael M. Honda (D-San Jose) and Laura Richardson (D-Long Beach).
-- Tony Pierce
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Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) speaks during a news conference in Havana today. Cuban President Raul Castro met with members of the Congressional Black Caucus for more than four hours, his first face-to-face discussions with U.S. leaders since he became Cuba's leader last year. Back, from left to right, Reps. Emanuel Cleaver II, Barbara Lee and Marcia L. Fudge. (AP Photo / Javier Galeano)