U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor is in Cuba; will lean about their environment, economy and culture

04/04/13 Seán Kinane & Janelle Irwin
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Tampa-area member of Congress Kathy Castor is in Cuba on what her office calls a fact-finding visit. The Democrat traveled to the socialist island Wednesday and will learn about Cuba's economy, culture, human rights and environment.

While on her trip Castor will speak with the ministry of tourism and a professor of gender studies.

She’ll spend time in Old Havana with small business owners to encourage a culture of change and cooperation between the island nation and the U.S.

Castor will also press Cuban officials on the need for cooperation and safety when drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico.

Representative Castor will return from her trip on Sunday.

Here is more information, provided by the office of U.S. Rep. Castor:

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Tampa, St. Petersburg) traveled to Cuba yesterday evening on a four-day, fact-finding visit to, foremost, learn about opportunities to poise Tampa as a gateway to Cuba, and create economic opportunities for small businesses in this area.

Rep. Castor traveled to Cuba with staff and the Center for Democracy in the Americas.

Upon Rep. Castor’s return, she will be available to discuss her trip with media Monday, April 8.

Below are highlights from her itinerary.

Local Economic Ties Enhance relationships between people and businesses in Cuba and Tampa. Tampa can serve as a “gateway” for those traveling to Cuba. This will give Tampa Bay an economic edge as the relationship moves forward.

· Meeting with MINTUR, the Ministry of Tourism · Meeting with the leadership of the Asociación Nacional de Economistas de Cuba (ANEC) (English: National Association of Cuban Economists) to learn about the economic transformations in Cuba. · Visit the small family farm of Miguel Martínez, who has been growing tobacco there since before the Cuban Revolution. · Meeting with Marta Nuñez, an expert in gender studies, and Daybel Pañellas, sociologist at the University of Havana, to discuss how economic reforms are affecting women. · Visit Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology

Tampa Cultural Ties Improved people to people exchanges will create a culture for change and cooperation between the two countries.

· Walk through Old Havana talk with cuentapropistas (private, small business owners), visit homes. · Meeting with Chief of Mission of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, John Caulfield, to discuss issues of family reunification and visas for Cubans wishing to visit family in Tampa Bay. Also focus on aiding Americans, church mission groups and others who visit Cuba. · Visit to Hemingway’s house, Finca Vigía, and a meeting with the Vice-Minister of Culture, Fernando Rojas, and the winner of the national poetry award, Pedro Pablo Rodriguez. · In Viñales, delegation will stay in “casas particulares,” rooms in local homes that have been set up to receive travelers.

Humanitarian Rep. Castor has continued to push for improved human rights in Cuba. She has met with dissidents like Yoani Sanchez and Pedro Pablo Alvarez in the United States, and will use this trip as an opportunity to expand on those conversations.

· Meet with Orlando Marquez and/or Cardinal Jaime Ortega of the Catholic Archdiocese to discuss human rights and the relationship between church and state. · Lunch with foreign diplomats – EU, Canada, Norway, and Brazil. · Meeting with MINREX, the Foreign Ministry of Cuba.

Florida Environmental Concerns Cuba continues to plan to drill for oil offshore and that remains a concern for Rep. Castor. She will press for the need for cooperation and safety in the Gulf of Mexico, particularly after the BP Oil Blowout in 2010.

· Ministerio de Energía y Minas, the Ministry of Energy

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