Cuba-U.S. talks on ties open in Havana

A U.S. congressional delegation has arrived in Havana on the first such visit since the U.S. and Cuba agreed a month ago to normalize relations.

U.S. companies can now export telephones, computers and Internet technology to Cuba

U.S. delegation leader Sen. Patrick Leahy talks with reporters as he leaves the Hotel Saratoga in Havana on Saturday. (Desmond Boylan/Associated Press)

A delegation of congressional Democrats began a three-day visit to Cuba on Saturday to discuss expectations for the normalization of relations between the United States and the island nation.

The delegation's leader, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, said in a statement that the lawmakers want to explore opportunities for greater cooperation and to encourage Cuban officials to address issues of concern to Americans and their representatives in Congress.

Leahy said he was hoping for "a lot more freedom of expression among Cubans."

Travelling with Leahy were Sens. Dick Durbin, Debbie Stabenow and Sheldon Whitehouse along with congressmen Chris Van Hollen and Peter Welch.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is planning a trade mission to Cuba to promote the state, spokeswoman Melissa DeRosa said Saturday. Details were not announced.

Last month, U.S. President Barack Obama announced plans for renewed economic ties and other administration-led initiatives aimed at re-establishing relations with Cuba. Many congressional Republicans have been cool to the effort.

His administration put into place rule changes on Friday aimed at loosening travel and trade restrictions. An end to the decades-old U.S. embargo against Cuba, however, would require an act of Congress.


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