WCAX: Welch, Leahy to accompany president on historic Cuba trip
WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama will be joined by Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont, and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, on his historic trip to Cuba.
The historic trip is scheduled to start March 20. This is the first time a U.S. president has visited Cuba since 1928.
News of the trip has drawn sharp criticism from some members of the Republican-controlled Congress, where there is strong opposition to restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba. The president says the trip will help accelerate changes there, but opponents say Obama has demanded too little from Havana to end the embargo, particularly in the area of human rights.
The White House says the president will decide who he meets with when he arrives in Cuba. And Obama has set a meeting with pro-democracy activists on the communist island nation as a condition of the trip.
WCAX News talked to Congressman Welch Tuesday about the trip. He believes the delegation will include about eight members of the U.S. House.
Welch says he believes the trip is important because it will help end the trade embargo, allow Vermonters to travel to the island nation and possibly allow Vermonters to do business in Cuba. Welch recognizes and believes there are human rights issues that need to be addressed in Cuba, but he believes the best way to try to solve those issues is through engagement with the Castro government.
Welch and Leahy traveled to Cuba last year with a group of Democratic lawmakers. The delegation met with Cuban leaders as the countries worked to normalize relations.