Tampa Congresswoman Kathy Castor just returned from a fact-finding mission to Cuba. She says she's more committed than ever to getting Congress to lift the embargo on the island nation.
Castor stood in front of a plaque at Tampa's MacFarlane Park honoring famous Cuban-Americans who lived in West Tampa. There, she praised President Obama's announcement that he'll become the first sitting president to visit Cuba in 80 years. Castor says she expects the president to talk extensively with Cuban leaders about easing restrictions on human rights violations by the Communist regime.
"You cannot press for human rights changes unless you're there on the ground and you have diplomatic relations, and you're sending Americans with American values to Cuba to meet with people," she says. "That's going to be at the forefront."
She says maybe the embargo was the correct policy back during the Cold War, but it's outdated.
"Fifty years later, it's not the appropriate policy. It has done damage. And it's infringed on our Constitutional rights as Americans to be able to travel anywhere in the world," she says. "Why can't we go 90 miles from the Florida coast to see our relatives and family members and go to the ballet and see the Tampa Bay Rays play?"
Castor went on to say that Americans have a responsibility on human rights - to lift the embargo, and allow full contact with the Cuban people.
She also says Tampa is positioned to benefit from the opening up of regular flights to Cuba - despite some reports that larger cities are poised to snap up the limited number of flights. She says Tampa International Airport director Joe Lopano is talking with officials from Jet Blue, American, "all of the airlines" to make sure that happens.