The venerable marble of the Washington Capitol was shaken by the words of the delegation of the Black Caucus of the United States Congress the same day of their return from Havana.
“It is time to open dialogue with Cuba . . . we are convinced, like President Raúl Castro, that the normalization of the relations between Cuba and the U.S. and the end of the economic, financial, and commercial embargo against the island would benefit both countries,” declared its president, Representative Barbara Lee. She and two other lawmakers said goodbye to the island in a talk with Fidel Castro, “full of energy and lucidity”, an appointment they requested of Raúl Castro the night before, in the Palace of the Revolution, a meeting that lasted four and a half hours. From the meeting with Raúl the representative of Illinois, Bobby Rush, recalled his mental sharpness, knowledge of history, sense of humor and human warmth that made him feel like a close relative.
With different variations, the calls that have been made to the White House in recent weeks to achieve a revision and change of the policy toward Cuba, go from one extreme to the other in the U.S. congressional spectrum. From the Republican conservative, Richard Lugar – a senator who, according to Fidel, has “put his feet on the ground” – to the Black Caucus, situated in the left of the Democratic Party. Participating in these actions are the Chamber of Commerce and other important business groups, academic circles, human rights organizations, and churches.
In his talk with the African-Americans, Raúl reiterated his willingness to talk with the U.S. over “whatever matter,” with the only premise being “the equal sovereignty of the states and the absolute respect for national independence and the unalienable right of all people to self-determination." Contrary to what the media has caused many to believe, the Cuban position is as old as the conflict with Washington. However, it looms large in the context of the political debate over the desirability of normalizing relations with the island, reopened after the election of Barack Obama. The motivation of those who promote it [normalization] are not always the same, but all come to precisely the same argument: the failure, after half a century, of U.S. hostility and the blockade. The truth is the arguments have been spurred by the repeal by Congress of limits set by Bush on visits and the sending of remittances by Cubans residing in the U.S., a new bill that would lift the ban of U.S. citizens’ travel to Cuba, and the statement by government spokespersons that, at some unspecified time, the policy toward Havana will be revised.
Fidel has dedicated several of his “Reflections” to clarify the political situation that brought about this scenario, pointing out candidly, as reiterated by the group headed by Lee, the objective limits raised by a U.S. system that opposes the sincere intentions of Obama, and discrediting tales by imperialist and counter-revolutionary media. “We do not need . . . the confrontation to exist, as some fools think; we exist precisely because we believe in our ideas and have never feared talking with the adversary. This is the only form of obtaining friendship and peace between peoples.” His story of the encounter with the black representatives overflows with warmth, appreciation and admiration for the struggle and bravery of these men and women, whose presence in the Congress – like that of Obama in the presidency, also catalyzed by crisis – would not be possible if were not for hard struggle for civil rights and the leadership and inspired ideas of Martin Luther King.
The black representatives announced that they will present a report to the White House and the Department of State with their conclusions of the visit to Cuba, “before the Summit of the Americas”. Just the day before, Obama made a call in Turkey, "to construct new bridges instead of new walls”. The question is whether his performance in the meeting will be congruent with that very idea. The name of the summit is disingenuous, because it excludes Cuba, while various governments question the draft of the final statement, denouncing the lack of consensus, which had been assured by White House consultant, Jeffery Davidow.