Launch of the Bipartisan Cuba Working Groupby Representative Karen Bass
Posted on 2015-12-17
BASS. Thank you very much, Congresswoman Lee.
I want to applaud your leadership and the leadership of Congressman Farr. We will miss him, as this is his last session in Congress.
For years, you have worked to have normal relations between the United States and Cuba. Although I have only been here for 5 years, I know that you have put in many, many years working to see that our two nations cooperated. It is really amazing if you think that we are only 90 miles away and where else is there in the world where we have two countries that are so close but yet we have not really been able to communicate and have normal relations? So I am happy to celebrate this 1-year anniversary, and I look forward to our nations continuing to work together.
There are a few things that I would like to mention: the fact that even in spite of the embargo and the travel ban, over 100,000 Americans visited Cuba every year before the policy change. But Americans had to go through all sorts of changes in order to have the opportunity to visit the island. Now, with travel opening up--and I am glad that the flights will go from your city, Congresswoman Lee. They will also go from Los Angeles, direct from Los Angeles to Havana.
Oftentimes when we think of establishing and reestablishing relations in Cuba, we think about it from the vantage point of what the United States has to offer the island, and certainly we can talk long about that. But the Cubans actually have things to offer the United States. I can think of several examples.
Right now, there are over 50 U.S. students that are studying medicine for free in Cuba. The only obligation that those students have is that, when they come back to the United States after graduating, they have to commit to practice medicine in an underserved area.
The Cubans have been pioneering medication and a vaccine to prevent lung cancer. They have also been able to develop a medication that has helped reduce the need to amputate limbs secondary to diabetic neuropathy. They have developed this medication, and that is something that we could use from the Cubans.
So I am looking forward to our continuing to establish and deepen our ties with the island.