Gordon MacMillan,  International

End of Cuban embargo insight?

Reports all over this morning of the visit by members of the Congressional Black Caucus to Havana to meet President Raul Castro and an apparently healthy Fidel Castro in what could be the beginning of the end of one of the last few vestiges of the cold war.

According to AP, Congresswoman Laura Richardson, one of three who met Fidel Castro on Tuesday, said she got the sense that “he really wants President Obama to succeed” in his foreign policy goals. “He sincerely wants an opportunity, I think, in his lifetime to see a change in America.”

Richardson was joined by Barbara Lee, head of the 42-member Congressional Black Caucus, and Bobby Rush, in meeting the 82-year-old Fidel Castro for nearly two hours.

The meeting with Fidel followed four hours of talks with Raul Castro. According to Lee, “[Raul] said everything was on the table” in reopening the dialogue with the US that was effectively shut off after Fidel Castro gained control of the island in 1959.

The visit by the Congressional Black Caucus, which has long called for an end to the trade and travel embargoes imposed on Cuba, coincided with increased movement from President Barack Obama’s White House to ease some of the restrictions on economic and social contacts with Cuba.

These have included removing limits on how often Cuban-Americans can visit relatives on the island; how much money they can send to family members; and more significantly work on ending the ban on almost all travel by Americans to Cuba.

There is expected to be some announcement by Obama before or at the upcoming Summit of the Americas to be held in Trinidad and Tobago on April 17-19.

However, AP says there is little or no suggestion that Obama is ready to commit to ending the trade embargo. There is still fierce opposition in Congress, led by Cuban-Americans, to even incremental easing of restrictions while the Castro brothers remain in power.