Democratic lawmakers visit Cuba amid changes in U.S. relations

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The first group of U.S. political leaders visited Cuba on Saturday to discuss expectations for the normalization of relations between the United States and the island nation.

The delegation’s leader, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, said in a statement Saturday that the lawmakers want to explore opportunities for greater cooperation and to encourage Cuban officials to address issues of concern to Americans and their representatives in Congress.

The three-day trip ends Monday. Traveling with Leahy are Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and congressmen Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Peter Welch of Vermont.

Last month, President Barack Obama announced plans for renewed economic ties and other administration-led initiatives aimed at re-establishing relations with Cuba. Many congressional Republicans have been cool to the effort.