Tampa, FL - Back from a four-day trip to Cuba, U.S. Representative Kathy Castor says it's time to lift travel restrictions and a more than 50-year-old trade embargo placed on the island country.
"I'm here to report that Cuba is changing. They have embarked on economic reforms that the United States of America should promote," Castor told reporters in Monday.
But Castor's comments quick drew fire from fellow Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami.
In a statement to 10 News Rep. Ros-Lehtinen said; "While in Cuba, wouldn't it be positive if members of Congress had a press conference calling for the Castro regime to lift restrictions on freedom of speech, of the press, to assemble and calling for the release of all political prisoners?"
The statement went on to say, "And they should say it to the faces of all the regime officials with whom they meet. That would be their last vacation to Cuba. There is a reason why certain members of Congress like Chris Smith are continually denied entry to Cuba. They challenge the regime. Sadly, not all have this courage."
Tampa attorney Ralph Fernandez used even stronger words when he said Castor now "joins all terrorists of the western hemisphere in solidarity with the (Castro) regime and tyranny that has brought pain and agony to my people."
Fernandez, who has long been a critic of lifting the trade embargo and opening free travel to Cuba while Raul and Fidel Castro are in control, says he's disappointed in Castor. Fernandez went on to say "just because something does not appear to work wholeheartedly as it is intended does not mean it's an absolute failure. "
Castor on Monday also suggested Cuba should be taken off the State Department's list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. The Democrat says she hopes to return to Cuba later this year, but will talk with the President and Secretary of State soon about lifting the current sanctions.