HAVANA, Feb. 22 (Xinhua) -- A bipartisan delegation of U.S. congressmen on Wednesday expressed their support for thawing ties between Washington and Havana despite recent threats by U.S. President Donald Trump to revert the historic opening.
In a press conference before ending a three-day trip to the island, the delegation of senators and representatives said that, over the last two years, both nations had made progress in numerous areas and that there was "overwhelming" support in both countries to deepen the ties.
"I have no idea what Donald Trump will do in regards to policy towards Cuba and we hope that he agrees that engagement is much better than isolation. I'm certain he can't go back to the past because too many accomplishments have been achieved," said Jim McGovern, a Democrat congressman from Massachusetts.
Meanwhile, Patrick Leahy, the Democratic senator from Vermont, said the trip showed that there was bipartisan support in Congress to continue the policy started by former president Barack Obama and to move forward with initiatives to end the economic embargo on the island.
"I would not be here today if I didn't think that continuation and progress is inevitable. It might not be the smoothest of paths but it will continue," added Leahy.
The delegation, also composed of Democrat senators Thomas Udall and Michael Bennet as well as Republican senator Thad Cochran, met with several Cuban officials, including President Raul Castro.
"We are cooperating in numerous areas and are doing significant things together. President Castro made it clear to us that he wants all of this to continue. We met a good number of government officials and we feel the Cubans want this policy to move forward," stated Leahy.
He also said Castro made it clear that while he will step down as president in 2018, he will continue to work to deepen relations between the former Cold War enemies.
Last month, the Cuban leader spoke at a regional summit to state his government wished to continue respectful dialogue and cooperation with the Trump administration but warned that Havana would not make concessions to its sovereignty and independence.
Castro gave Leahy and Cochran a signed copy of this statement in English, in order to pass Havana's position on to higher political circles in Washington.
Meanwhile, Udall said there is huge interest in the U.S. regarding Cuba and numerous sectors of American society wish to engage with the island country.
"We must continue to build on this policy. There's an overwhelming opinion in the American business community, farmers, medical research and many other areas that want to engage with their Cuban counterparts and colleagues," he said.
Cochran, while he has publicly endorsed Trump, is a co-sponsor of a Senate bill providing for the expansion of agricultural exports to Cuba.
"This has been an interesting experience and we want to increase cooperation with Cuba in different areas, particularly medical research, biotechnology and agriculture. We want to be a good neighbor," he said.
All of the congressional leaders said the complete lifting of the U.S. economic blockade on the island is a "matter of time" and agreed it must come to an end as it represents a "failed policy" .
The congressional trip takes place just over one month after the inauguration of Donald Trump, who has promised to review the state of relations with Cuba.