After fighting for improving relations between Cuba and the U.S. for 37 years, Congresswoman Barbara is savoring the moment – the formal announcement recently that President Barack Obama is beginning to break down the walls between the two countries.
Reflecting on her many visits to Cuba over the years, Lee told the Post that improving American-Cuban relations and lifting the embargo will have significant social and economic benefits to the U.S.
“We will benefit in many ways,” said Congresswoman Lee, noting the access to medical treatment and education, as well as trade.
“There are many medical treatments that we can benefit from,” she said. “They have very few cases of Hepatitis B and have treatment for diabetic ulcers in 70 to 75 percent of cases. Having that access to treatment would be phenomenal.”
U.S. Medical students from low-income communities are already able to study in Cuba through a free program with The Latin American School of Medicine.
After Cuba established the program for international students from countries in Latin America, Congresswoman Lee advocated for the program to be expanded to include U.S. students.
A number of U.S. students, some from the Bay Area, now have the opportunity to travel to Cuba to study medicine.
Congresswoman Lee’s main concern is that other countries are building economic ties with Cuba and that window of opportunity for U.S. trade is closing very quickly.
But, she is hopeful that the U.S. will “be able to engage in trade soon…Business opportunity means jobs in America,” she said.
In a recent column published in Cuban media by Fidel Castro, called “Reflections by Comrade Fidel,” the former leader wrote about his 2009 visit with Congresswoman Lee and members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Congresswoman Lee had a chance to hear Castro’s perspective of the world, Cuban policies, and discuss human rights issues when she visited his home.
He praised Lee for her stance against “Bush’s genocidal war in Iraq.”
“It was unbeatable proof of political courage. She deserves every honor,” he wrote.
Lee said in her interview with the Post that she hopes President Obama will visit Havana before he finishes his term.
“I look forward to additional steps to fully normalize relations with Cuba – it is far past time,” said Lee.