Schmoke will visit Cuba on fact-finding mission Mayor will be guest of advocacy group

March 06, 1998|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke will visit Havana next week as part of a U.S. contingent on a fact-finding mission.

Schmoke will travel as a guest of the Center for International Policy, a Washington advocacy group pushing to end the U.S. embargo with Cuba.

Schmoke will join former Maryland Rep. Michael Barnes, a center director. Also on the trip will be the Rev. Leo J. O'Donovan, Georgetown University president, and Marine Gen. John J. Sheehan, retiring head of the U.S. Atlantic Command. The group will leave Tuesday and return March 14.

The men will review Havana's urban planning policies, study the impact of Pope John Paul II's recent Cuba visit and review calls for the United States to provide more humanitarian aid in the form of food and medicine to the country, center officials said.

The center was formed in 1975 to promote a "more rational policy" toward Cuba. Schmoke, however, wouldn't comment on the political situation in Cuba or on its president, Fidel Castro.

Castro has eased barriers to the country, providing more visas to journalists and recently welcoming the pope. Schmoke said he sees his role on the trip as an observer, he said.

"Some of us are looking past a post-Castro Cuba and making some plans for that," Schmoke said.

Katie Donahue, government affairs associate with the center, said Schmoke was invited because he expressed an interest in Cuban affairs.

"We heard that this was something that he would be interested in doing," Donahue said.

Pub Date: 3/06/98

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