Posted by Josh Drobnyk at 2:14:04 PM on July 30, 2008
U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter said he has requested a meeting with Cuban leader Raul Castro and hopes to sit down with him during a trip to Latin America next month.
The Pennsylvania Republican often uses his time away from the Senate -- it is scheduled to adjourn for a month-long recess Friday -- to meet with foreign leaders, as photos on his office walls can attest. On three previous occasions, he has met with Fidel Castro, who is ill and recently handed over power to his brother Raul.
"I think that chances are really on the horizon for reestablishing relations with Cuba now that Fidel Castro is no longer in charge," he told reporters today. "I'd like to see Raul Castro. There is a real opportunity to get Cuban cooperation on drug interdiction. ... And also I'd like to see trade and tourism develop and I think we are right on the cusp of doing that."
He said he has sent a letter to Castro and is awaiting a response. "I think he'll see me," Specter said.
Specter said he also hopes to meet with Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez during the trip, with whom he last met in August 2005.
"I'm a firm believer in dialogue. I think there is a potential to salvage the relationship with Chavez -- will be very helpful in Latin America."