In early April 2009, Rep. Barbara Lee led a congressional delegation to Havana for a 4-1/2 hour meeting with Raul Castro, telling reporters, "All of us are convinced that President Castro would like normal relations and would see normalization, ending the embargo, as beneficial to both countries." Reuters reported that Lee's delegation "avoided specifics" with Castro "but were struck by his humor, impressed by his involvement in Third World causes and firm in their belief that he wants to end U.S.-Cuba enmity."
The meeting between Castro, Lee, and five other members of the Congressional Black Caucus, took place in secret without the customary presence of a US State Department official. No reporters attended, and according to the New York Times, Cuban television, which covered the visit, offered no details of what was said.
Reps. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Marcia L. Fudge (D-OH), Laura Richardson (D-CA), Bobby Rush (D-IL), Melvin Luther Watt (D-CA), and Barbara Lee. "Also particapating were Patrice Willougby, executive assistant to the Congressional Black Caucus, and Eulada Watt, wife of Congressman Mel Watt".
Bobby Rush said he found Raul Castro "to be just the opposite of how he's being portrayed in the media." AP quotes Rush as saying, "I think what really surprised me, but also endeared to him was his keen sense of humor, his sense of history and his basic human qualities." At times, Rush said, the lawmakers and Castro chatted "like old family members."
Lee says she wanted to influence President Barack Obama prior to the upcoming Summit of the Americas in Trinadad and Tobago.
Prior to the trip, Lee told her hometown Oakland Tribune newspaper that the US had to open up to Cuba, but did not demand that the Cuban government open up; she blasted US policy as "based on antiquated Cold War-era thinking." She could have used those words to describe her own views.
Michael Honda, from California, also accompanied the delegation, as did Patrice Willoughby, executive assistant of the Congressional Black Caucus, plus four military personnel from the Congressional Liaison Office under the orders of Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Wolf.
- Liberal Rantings Of A Queer New Yorker, January 20, 2009, Gotta Love 'Em
- http://jmw.typepad.com/political_warfare/2009/04/congresswoman-barbara-lee-still-stuck-in-the-cold-war.html] Congresswoman Barbara Lee: Still stuck in the Cold War, political Warfare, Michael Waller, accessed August 20, 2010
- Reflections of Fidel, The seven Congress members who are visiting us, Havana. April 7, 2009