Fidel Castro, the longtime communist leader of Cuba, met with visiting members of the U.S. Congressional Black Caucus on Tuesday, a day after his brother, Raúl, who succeeded him as president, did the same, according to a U.S. official in Havana.
The meeting with Fidel Castro, 82, comes amid speculation that the United States is considering a shift in relations with the Communist nation that sits just 90 miles from the Florida Keys. According to the source — a U.S. diplomat — the three members of Congress were visiting the Latin American School of Medicine when they were invited to meet with the senior leader. Rep. Barbara Lee, a Democrat from California, was among the members of Congress who met with Fidel Castro, according to the source. The source did not immediately know the other two. There was no immediate response from the Obama administration on the meeting. But asked earlier about Monday’s meeting with Raúl Castro, State Department spokesman Robert Wood declined to say what, if any, role it could play in a possible warming of a decades-long diplomatic and economic freeze. “Members of Congress have the right to travel where they want and to discuss issues with whom they want,” Wood said. “And I am sure members of that delegation will be raising some of the concerns that the U.S. government has with Cuba, in terms of allowing Cubans to have some of the same rights and freedoms as other countries in the hemisphere.” Obama has said he is in favor of changing the relationship with Cuba but has not offered specifics. Government officials have hinted that he may soon lift travel restrictions between the two countries. The United States broke diplomatic ties with Cuba in 1961, two years after Fidel Castro took office. The following year, the U.S. government instituted a trade embargo. Both policies still remain in effect. Early last year, and with his health failing, Fidel Castro announced he was resigning from the presidency. The Cuban National Assembly appointed Raúl to the post days later. Fidel Castro led the revolution that, in 1959, overthrew Cuba’s Batista dictatorship. He was credited with bringing social reforms to Cuba but criticized internationally for oppressing human rights and free speech.