By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Monday, March 21, US Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) issued a written following statement regarding President Barack H. Obama’s visit to Cuba.
Congressman Byrne said, “I look forward to the day when the trade embargo is lifted, and we have fully normalized relations with Cuba. Ultimately, this decision must be made by Congress, and we shouldn’t move forward until Cuban leaders change their behavior and start respecting the Cuban people, as well as the United States. I hope the President uses this visit to demand that political activity be legalized, religious freedom be protected, an independent judiciary be established, free speech be restored, and Cuba stop being a staging area for military and intelligence activities against the United States.”
Rep. Byrne, who visited Cuba last year, “I’ve seen the optimism and spirit of the Cuban people firsthand, and there is great potential for our two countries. But we must start demanding reforms from the Cuban government instead of just continuing to give the Castro regime everything they want with nothing in return.”
Just after landing in Cuba President Obama sent the following message to the White House email list to reflect on his historic visit to Cuba. The President wrote, “Hola desde Cuba! Michelle, the girls, and I are here in Havana on our first full day in Cuba. Cubans have lined the streets to welcome us, and it’s humbling to be the first US president in nearly 90 years to visit a country and a people just 90 miles from our shores.”
Pres. Obama continued, “Like so many Americans, I’ve only known the isolation that has existed between our two governments. I was born in 1961, the year of the Bay of Pigs invasion. A year later, a Cold War confrontation over Cuba pushed the world as close as it’s ever been to nuclear war. As the decades passed, the mistrust between our governments resulted in heartache for our two peoples, including Cuban Americans, many of whom have endured decades of separation from their homeland and relatives.”
The President said, “I’ve come to Havana to extend the hand of friendship to the Cuban people. I’m here to bury the last vestige of the Cold War in the Americas and to forge a new era of understanding to help improve the daily lives of the Cuban people. There continue to be real and important differences between our governments, including profound differences on the way to promote safety, security, opportunity, and human rights. But there’s so much Americans and Cubans share — our cultures and passions, our hopes for the future, not to mention a love of baseball.”
Pres. Obama concluded, “I know one visit, and one president, cannot erase the decades of history that have left so many Cubans in poverty or exile. But sometimes the most important changes begin with the smallest step. I believe in the Cuban people and their desire to build a future of their own choosing. And I believe that changing the way we do things between our countries will, over time, help make that possible. So I’m looking forward to meeting and hearing directly from Cubans from all walks of life. And I’m confident that, working together with the Cuban people, our two countries can begin a new journey together that delivers progress for both our peoples.”
The last sitting previous President to visit Cuba was Calvin Coolidge.
Congressman Bradley Byrne represents Alabama’s First Congressional District.