Senators Tom Udall & Jeff Flake Pledge Bipartisan Work to Modernize Relations with Cuba

After returning from a three-day Senate Foreign Relations Committee trip to Cuba, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) pledged to continue working together in the Senate to open U.S. travel to and trade with Cuba, a potential new market for New Mexico, Arizona and other states. During the visit, the senators met with Cuban officials, including Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parilla, and religious and business leaders to discuss the impacts of the embargo and travel restrictions on American and Cuban families. The senators also visited Alan Gross, an American who has been held in a Cuban jail since 2009. In conversations with Cuban officials and American media outlets, the senators stressed that Alan Gross wants to come home.

“New Mexicans are anxious to meet and work with Cubans, and the time is right to rebuild business and cultural ties between the United States and Cuba,” Udall said. “The Cuban regime is antidemocratic and has many flaws, but our current policy has proven ineffective and has primarily served to isolate the people of Cuba. It’s time for a 21st century approach that opens up opportunities for New Mexicans and other American interests. We’ll continue working as members of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee to push for the release of Alan Gross and continued steps to normalize relations with Cuba. I urge the Obama administration to act by relaxing travel restrictions and working with the telecommunications industry to improve the ability for the people of the world to communicate with Cuba.”

“My recent trip to Cuba has only reconfirmed the necessity of modernizing our failed policy toward the island,” Flake said. “While the significance of Cuba’s recent economic changes remains to be seen, there is now a burgeoning small-business community there, much of which is funded by remittances from the United States. Rather than continuing to provide the regime an all-too-convenient scapegoat and wasting money on boondoggle aid programs, it’s time to take commonsense steps to support these entrepreneurs, expand the participation of U.S. businesses in the Cuban economy, and lift the ban on non-Cuban American U.S. citizens travelling to the island. I was also pleased to have an opportunity to meet Alan Gross, and will continue to work for his release.”