Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) departs today on a congressional delegation trip to Cuba.
The senators will discuss human rights, trade and health care issues in Havana and also travel to Guantánamo Bay Naval Base where the United States since 2002 has detained prisoners with suspected links to al Qaeda.
Sanders has supported President Barack Obama's effort to close the military prison. "We should aggressively defend ourselves against terrorism, but we must do so in a way that is consistent with our nation's core values," he said. The prison at Guantánamo Bay has "significantly damaged the United States' moral standing, undermined our foreign policy, and encouraged terrorism rather than effectively combated it."
During the Havana leg of the trip, the delegation plans to meet with Alan Gross, an American arrested in 2009 while working as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development to set up Internet access for Cubans. Gross is serving a 15-year sentence. His case has become an obstacle to improving ties between the United States and Cuba, which have not had formal diplomatic relations since 1961.
Sanders supports normalized relations between the two nations. "American businesses are losing billions of dollars because of the economic embargo. Meanwhile, Canadians and Europeans are creating jobs through their investments in Cuba," he said. "My hope is that Cuba moves toward a more democratic society while, at the same time, the United States will respect the independence of the Cuban people."