By Marc Frank
HAVANA (Reuters) - The governor of Colorado said on Sunday he believes the Cuban government wants to further improve relations with the United States under President Donald Trump, as he wrapped up a three-day visit to the Communist-run island nation.
“They seemed eager for the chance to build a relationship with President Trump and have it be a constructive one,” Governor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, said of his meeting with Cuba’s point person for U.S. relations, Josefina Vidal.
He said in an interview that Vidal, director of U.S. affairs at the Cuban foreign ministry, and other foreign ministry officials “were cautiously optimistic."
"They realize they have to wait and that the new administration has a lot of things going on. They understand things could change in some ways, but I didn’t sense there was any fear or some sort of depression," the governor said.
Hickenlooper, who traveled with a cultural and business delegation, was the highest-ranking elected U.S. official to meet with Vidal since Trump assumed office last month. Trump has said he wanted a better deal than that brokered by his predecessor, Barack Obama.
On Friday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said a “full review” of America’s foreign policy toward Cuba was underway.
Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro stunned the world in December 2014 when they announced the two governments would restore diplomatic ties after more than 50 years of Cold War hostilities and work to normalize relations.
The Colorado governor said the purpose of his trip was to view post-Fidel Castro Cuba and invite the country to his state’s Biennial of the Americas, which brings together the cultures, businesses and ideas of North and South America.
Hickenlooper said the Cubans had enthusiastically accepted the invitation to attend the event in September.
Hickenlooper said he did not doubt many innocent people were hurt during the early years of the Revolution, but most of those involved had passed away.
“The younger people seem eager to build a relationship with the United States,” he said.
The governor, a former entrepreneur and restaurant owner, spent a day meeting with small business owners and said he had visited five private eateries.
“I was surprised. One has this vision of everyone being downtrodden, and there was so much optimism and positive energy,” he said.
“Some of the business people did say if you see President Trump please tell him to let us keep the beginnings of this new inspiration,” he said.
(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)