TAMPA -- Saying "its time to try something new," U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor on Monday called for the Obama administration and Congress to lift travel restrictions and the 51-year-old trade embargo on Cuba.
"Cuba is changing," said Castor, D-Tampa, who left on a fact-finding trip to Cuba Wednesday evening and returned on Saturday. "They have embarked on economic reforms that the United States of America should promote. The United States of America now should normalize relations and begin a constructive dialogue with the island nation."
Castor said Fidel Castro is no longer in power, described his brother, President Raul Castro, as "a much more practical ruler," and said there is a generational change underway in Cubas government.
"They are still a hard-core communist nation, but they are embarking on market reforms in their economy that deserve encouragement," said Castor, who traveled with members of her staff and representatives of the nonprofit, non-partisan Center for Democracy in the Americas.
As a result of her trip, Castor said she plans to reach out to President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry "to open talks to lead to greater trade and travel opportunities."
"This should not be done with blinders on, however," she said. "There are still very significant human rights challenges in Cuba. It is still, to many extents, a repressive regime that does not allow citizens to enjoy all of the human rights that we all enjoy. But after 50 years of an embargo and isolation thats proved that it hasnt worked, its time to try something new and refresh our relationship."