Obama will take McGovern on trip to Havana
By Evan Lips | March 11, 2016, 15:44 EST
WORCESTER – When President Barack Obama becomes the first sitting U.S. commander-in-chief to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge landed on the island in January 1928, he’ll be accompanied by Worcester congressman James P. McGovern.
The Democrat announced his traveling plans Thursday in Worcester, according to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, which reported that McGovern hopes the trip will “cement” America’s new relationship with the communist nation.
“It’s time to realize the Cold War is over,” McGovern told reporters at the city’s Union Station, where he was promoting a new public-transit commuter tax benefit.
The trip to Havana is scheduled for March 21-22. Obama has said he hopes to improve American relations with the island’s government. But earlier this week, Reuters reported that Obama would not meet with Fidel Castro, the communist revolutionary who led the overthrow of Fulgenico Batista in 1959.
Next month, I’ll travel to Cuba to advance our progress and efforts that can improve the lives of the Cuban people.
— President Obama (@POTUS) Feb. 18, 2016
McGovern has been vocal about improving U.S. ties with Cuba, a strategy critics have faulted as providing support to an oppressive regime. After Obama last month announced his plan to visit the island, McGovern issued a statement praising the decision while describing himself as a “leading champion for modernizing U.S.-Cuba relations.”
It’s not the first trip to Cuba for McGovern. In August 2015, he accompanied Secretary of State John Kerry, the former Massachusetts senator, on a jaunt to Havana for the reopening of the long-shuttered U.S. Embassy.
Cuba’s government, led by Fidel’s brother Raul Castro, has indicated it will welcome Obama to Havana but stressed in a lengthy editorial posted in the newspaper Granma, the Communist Party’s chief publication, that it has no plans to alter its policies. Obama does plan to meet with Raul Castro, Reuters said.
At Thursday night’s Republican presidential debate, Marco Rubio, a Cuban American and a senator from Florida, drew cheers from the crowd when he ripped Obama’s policies toward the island nation.
The only result of “opening” relations with the island, Rubio said, was a new influx of cash for the communist government there.
“Nothing will change for the Cuban people, in fact, things are worse than they were before this opening,” Rubio said.