Cuba's Raul Castro meets with U.S. congressional delegation

Tue Feb 19, 2013 10:29pm EST
 

By Marc Frank

HAVANA (Reuters) - A seven-member U.S. congressional delegation met on Tuesday with Cuban President Raul Castro, official media reported, to improve relations that have been strained since U.S. government contractor Alan Gross was imprisoned there in 2009.

Members of the group, which arrived on Monday, also met with Gross, said a delegation member who asked not to be identified.

A statement issued by the Cuban government on Tuesday said Castro and Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez met first with Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont to discuss "issues of interest for both countries," then held talks with other lawmakers.

Leahy met with Castro, Rodriguez and Gross last year.

The senator, who spoke with reporters on Monday, said Gross's fate and reforms under way in Cuba would top the group's agenda.

The Cuban statement, released Tuesday with video of the meeting, said the U.S. delegation also held meetings with parliament president Ricardo Alarcon and Rodriguez.

Leahy was expected to issue a statement on Wednesday.

Other members of the delegation included Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona and Democratic Senators Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Democratic Representative Jim McGovern of Massachusetts and Representative Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat who represents Gross' district in Maryland.   Continued...

 
Cuba's President Raul Castro waves to the media before an official dinner at La Moneda Presidential Palace during the summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in Santiago, January 27, 2013. REUTERS/Andres Stapff