Engel Remarks at Press Availability on Congressional Delegation to Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti

Engel Remarks at Press Availability on Congressional Delegation to Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti

- As Delivered –


Left to Right: Reps. Anna Eshoo (CA), Rosa DeLauro (CT), Eliot Engel (NY), and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA)

WASHINGTON, DC—Representative Eliot L. Engel, the leading Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following remarks at a press availability with members of the Congressional Delegation that traveled last week to Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti:

“Well thank you very much, Madam Leader. And let me first start by thanking Leader Pelosi for leading this important trip to Cuba, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. This was a good trip, and the right trip at the right time.

“President Obama’s December 17th announcement on Cuba told the Cuban people that we want to move forward. It was clear during our time in Cuba that there was an outpouring of affection by the average citizen to the United States. Average people that we met on the street were all very, very positive.

“I feel very, very strongly that Congress has an important role to play in U.S. foreign policy. And I think it was very, very important for us to engage in the Cuban officials directly. Talk to them directly. I raise the issue, as did my colleagues, of human rights, to the Cubans, in every meeting that we had. 

“I believe the ball is now in the Cuban government’s court to respond by ending the harassment of political activists and releasing political prisoners.  For our policies to continue to change, it’s going to take give and take on both sides, and frankly I’d like to see some more changes on the Cuban side, and I said that in Havana.  And I think, again, it’s important for us to meet with Cuban officials, to let them hear how we feel.

“I hope to be at the Summit of the Americas in Panama in April. And at the Summit, I hope there will be a large segment of independent Cuban civil society participating. And I said that, also, everywhere I went.

“As the former Chairman of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, I was very pleased to return to Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

“I visited Haiti five years ago when—after the devastating earthquake, and I’m pleased that there’s been a lot of progress made in rebuilding Haiti, but much more remains to be done. I’ve asked the GAO, the Government Accountability Office, to prepare a report on the speed of U.S. assistance to Haiti which will be released in June.  And I believe we have to do everything we can to expedite assistance to Haiti, and I brought that message to the U.S. embassy officials in Port-au-Prince.

“And finally, as a New Yorker, let me say it’s always a pleasure to visit the Dominican Republic and Haiti, because we have many, many constituents who come from both places, and I deeply value the strong ties between our countries.

“And again, I think that the trip of all of us collectively helped to deepen those ties. Certainly in Haiti, and the Dominican Republic, and in Cuba—show the Cuban people that the United States cares, we want change in Cuba, we’re going to take trips like this to demand change in Cuba. And we’re going to move positively forward.

“Thank you.”