Castor returns from Cuba, calls for end to trade embargo

By Dalia Dangerfield, Reporter
Last Updated: Monday, April 08, 2013, 5:51 PM EDT

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor has returned from a four-day trip to Cuba.

The Democrat from Tampa says America's trade embargo on the island nation should end, saying "it's time to try something new."

She is the second member of Congress from Florida to visit Raul Castro's country since 1959. The lawmaker held a news conference at her office on Tampa's Armenia Avenue Monday to discuss her trip.

She said their economy is reforming and it deserves encouragement. Castor said she plans to discuss Cuba with President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry as soon as possible.

She went to Cuba with her staff and representatives of the nonprofit, non-partisan Center for Democracy in the Americas.

In addition to lifting the embargo, Castor said there are two other ways Floridians can help Cuba.

First, state universities should not ban their students from participating in exchange programs. Second, the Tampa area should make more of an effort to market itself as a place to travel to and from to help spread tourism dollars.

The lawmaker said she realizes her position will bring criticism, especially since there are still human rights issues in the country.

"The United States of America should begin a constructive diagloge," she said. "Cuba is changing."