A U.S. congressional delegation has left Cuba after meeting with President Raúl Castro and visiting an American who has been jailed in Havana since 2009.
The delegation was led by Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont. Leahy said President Castro and the group “discussed the continuing obstacles and the need to improve relations” between the United States and Cuba.
“I think that we are at a time when, I would hope, that both our countries would adapt to the 21st century as far as relations,” said Leahy. “I had very good talks with President Castro, but with others also. And I’ll talk to President Obama when I get back, and I will fill him in with those talks and I will also give him my recommendations.”
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez also attended the meeting.
Leahy and Rep. Chris Van Hollen also met with 63-year-old American Alan Gross, who has been jailed in Cuba since 2009. Hollen represents Gross’s home state of Maryland. Gross is serving a 15-year prison sentence for illegally possessing communications equipment while on a democracy-building program funded by a U.S. State Department program.
The congressional delegation wants Cuban authorities to free Gross. Leahy led a similar delegation to Cuba last year, where he met with Castro and Gross.
Havana has offered to release Gross in exchange for five Cuban spies captured in the U.S. in the 1990s and serving lengthy jail sentences. Washington has ruled out any such prisoner swap.