Democratic lawmakers visit Havana, meet with Cuban president

HAVANA (AP) — A delegation of at least three U.S. lawmakers visited Havana and met with Cuba’s government this week, American and Cuban officials confirmed.

Reps. James McGovern (D-MA), Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Troy Carter (D-LA) met with Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, leaders in Cuba’s congress and its foreign minister, the U.S. Embassy in Cuba told The Associated Press on Sunday.

It’s one of just a handful of such visits to the island in recent decades. While officials provided few details about what was discussed, Díaz-Canel and Cuba’s Congress tweeted photos of the meetings.

One photo shows Rep. McGovern shaking hands with the Cuban leader and another shows the politicians meeting with other Cuban officials.

“We addressed our differences and topics of shared interest. We affirmed our willingness to improve bilateral relations,” tweeted Díaz-Canel Saturday, also noting he expressed the importance of ending the U.S. government’s six-decade trade embargo on the island.

The meeting comes following a number of visits in past months by Biden administration officials to discuss migration. The talks mark a gradual easing of tensions, which were relaxed during the Obama administration and tightened under the Trump administration.

Cuba is facing the greatest exodus from the island in a decade, fueled by compounding economic, energy and political crises.

In the past year, Cuban arrivals to the U.S.-Mexico border have skyrocketed, and a growing number of boats packed with migrants have been found off of Florida’s coast.

In October, Cubans replaced Venezuelans as the second most numerous nationality after Mexicans arriving at the border. U.S. authorities stopped Cubans 28,848 times, up 10% from the previous month, the latest data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows.

It also comes weeks before the U.S. plans to resume visa and consular services on the island, which had been stalled after a series of health incidents involving American diplomats in 2017.

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