Democratic and Republican lawmakers will join President Barack Obama on his trip to Cuba later in March.
Obama invited members of both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party to join him in Cuba.
Both Democrats and Republicans have accepted the invitation from the president. Patrick Leahy, the senate’s longest serving member and Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona, accepted the president’s invitation.
Flake and Leahy are part of a group of 46 senators going to Cuba.
“Excited to do it,” Flake said about the trip to Cuba. “I’m glad the president is going. This is a big deal. It will be good for the Cuban people.”
One senator, Bill Nelson of Florida, did not accept the invitation. His state is home to many Cuban-Americans. Those Cuban-Americans blame Cuba for many human rights violations.
“They invited me to go along, and I cannot go,” Nelson said. I don’t want any attendance by me as Florida’s senior senator that would in any way be interpreted that you overlook the human rights abuses of [the] Castro [regime] in Cuba. It’s not time for me to go.”
Top members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee were invited, but will not attend. Republican Senator Bob Corker and Democratic Senator Ben Cardin will not travel to Cuba.
Senators not traveling with the president will be watching closely how the human rights issue will be handled.
“There’s a lot of potential in Cuba,” Cardin said. “But they still are not doing what is necessary on human rights. But through U.S. involvement, we will be able to see greater change.”
Obama's trip to Cuba will mark the first time a sitting U.S. president has visited the island in nearly 90 years.
I’m Jonathan Evans.
Michael Bowman wrote this story for VOA News. Jim Dresbach adapted this story for Learning English and VOANews.com. Kathleen Struck was the editor.
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Words in This Story
interpret - v. to explain the meaning of; to understand
handle - v. to direct; to react to a situation or problem
potential - n. having the ability to become something in the future
overlook – v. to fail to see or notice something