CHICAGO – Nearly 100 people gathered at the Adalberto United Methodist Church April 14, on the city’s north side, to hear Congressman Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) debrief on his recent trip to Cuba. Leaders from Chicago’s Latino community, area churches, health care agencies, business, civic, legal and community organizations including Cuban Americans attended the report back.

“It was appropriate for me to travel to Cuba so we can kill and bury the misconceptions, the bad attitudes, the failed policies or our nation so that a new resurrection can take place – a resurrection where understanding truth, justice and equality will prevail,” Rush told the audience.

Rush emphasized the need end the 50-year U.S. embargo on Cuba. The U.S. imposed the blockade, which has banned Americans to trade and travel to the island after Cuba’s 1959 revolution. Since 1962, the U.S. policy toward Cuba has consisted largely of isolating the socialist country and its people through comprehensive economic sanctions.

Rush is the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection. He commended President Barack Obama’s recent decision to lift restrictions on travel, remittances and mail to the island nation for Cuban Americans. The stringent restrictions put in place by the Bush administration limited travel to see family to only once every three years and other draconian measures.

“The decision to lift certain restrictions is a significant step in the right direction,” said Rush. “However, we should also explore other opportunities that would serve to stimulate the American economy.”

Rush added, “We want to expand and create jobs while also increasing tourism. American tourists are America’s best ambassadors and a free people must be able to travel freely. Normalizing trade relations with Cuba is in the best interest of both nations, and we look forward to discussing these issues with the administration in order to serve the interests of the American economy.”

Rush joined six other members of the Congressional Black Caucus led by the CBC’s chairwoman, Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), on a six-day tour of Cuba earlier this month. Rush is a newly elected board member of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.

The lawmakers visited Cuba to determine the potential expansion of trade opportunities for American businesses between the U.S. and Cuba. Rush was one of three U.S. officials that met with former Cuban President Fidel Castro. The entire delegation met with Cuba’s president, Raul Castro.

Rush is a co-sponsor of HR 874, The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act, legislation that would end the current ban on travel by Americans to Cuba.

In a statement made while in Cuba Rush highlighted the need to build stronger ties between the two countries.

“As the current global economic crisis demonstrates, the economic vitality of the U.S. is inextricably linked to international peace, trade and expanded opportunities for American companies to identify stable markets in which to do business,” said Rush.

Rush added in the statement that he planned to investigate human rights issues in Cuba but feels a lot has changed in the world since 1961 when the U.S. trade embargo was first imposed.

“It’s time to take a fresh look at the challenges and opportunities between our two nations and chart a constructive new path forward,” he said.

Rush is slated to conduct congressional hearings on Cuba at the end of April.