MSNBC host Chris Jansing asked Rep. Peter Welch (D., Vt.) Monday about Cuba's dismal human rights record during an interview with Welch and Rep. Gregory Meeks (D., N.Y.) while they are in Cuba for President Obama's visit.
Welch addressed the criticism and then said that America could learn some things from the Cuban people.
"But you understand, there's an overriding concern, both here with people I've talked to, and of course, many Cuban-Americans, they lived the horror their families often escaped, their families lost property or were jailed," Jansing said.
"We still see it now. We saw what happened yesterday when dozens of people who were protesting peacefully, members of a group that do this every week. They thought well maybe they would get a pass this week just to say to President Obama, ‘OK, we understand,’ but look, you can see these pictures of what happened here and you understand the hesitation of people that they believe that we are giving economic opportunity, but not getting much in return, in terms of human rights, freedom of speech, the things that have been missing here," Jansing said.
"Right, and they're right to criticize because it's an oppressive political system," Welch said. "The question is whether embargo or engagement has the better prospect of helping the Cuban people."
"By the way, there's another point here that I think a lot of us are seeing: We can learn some things from the Cuban people. They live under very difficult circumstances without the political rights we enjoy, but they've got–everybody reads, they've got 100 percent, just about, literacy rate, they've got access to health care, their longevity is as long as it is in the United States, maybe a little longer," Welch said. "So, we're here, in the hopes that we can bring something, but there's some things we might be able to learn from the Cuban people."