Obama says U.S. needs to update policies on Cuba

MIAMI Sat Nov 9, 2013 3:06am GMT

U.S. President Barack Obama talks about the importance of growing the U.S. economy while at the Port of New Orleans in Louisiana, November 8, 2013. REUTERS/Larry Downing

U.S. President Barack Obama talks about the importance of growing the U.S. economy while at the Port of New Orleans in Louisiana, November 8, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

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MIAMI (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Friday that it may be time for the United States to revise its policies toward Cuba, against which it has had an embargo for more than half a century.

"We have to be creative and we have to be thoughtful and we have to continue to update our policies," he said at a fundraising event in the Miami area.

"Keep in mind that when Castro came to power I was just born, so the notion that the same policies that we put in place in 1961 would somehow still be as effective as they are today in the age of the Internet, Google and world travel doesn't make sense," he added, referring to Fidel Castro, the leader of the Cuban revolution.

Incremental changes in U.S. Cuba policy have allowed greater communication with people on the island and the transfer of remittances, Obama said.

"But I think we all understand that ultimately, freedom in Cuba will come because extraordinary activists and the incredible courage of folks like we see here today," he told a small audience at the home of Jorge Mas, a telecommunications equipment executive. "But the United States can help."

A younger generation of U.S. politicians and Americans of Cuban ancestry are likely more open to finding "new mechanisms" to bring about change on the island, he said.

The U.S. embargo against Cuba is controversial internationally and the United Nations in October voted for the 22nd time to condemn it. Cuban Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodriguez, said the fact that the embargo has been in place for more than half a century is "barbaric."

Obama said before taking office that he wanted to recast long-hostile U.S.-Cuba relations, but his efforts have been a disappointment to the Cuban government, which hoped he would do more to dismantle the embargo.

U.S. diplomats have said that while the United States welcomes some of the recent changes in Cuba, the country still has one of the most restrictive economic systems in the world.

Even so, the two countries have made small advances toward one another. Diplomats sat down in September to discuss re-establishing direct mail between the United States and Cuba, which has been suspended since 1963.

Obama restarted the talks, along with discussions of immigration issues, in 2009. However the negotiations broke off after Cuba arrested U.S. contractor Alan Gross, who was sentenced in 2011 to 15 years for his role in setting up an underground Internet network.

(Reporting by Mark Felsenthal; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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Comments (1)
Parke wrote:
The most creative recommendation for President Obama is to call for the process of full normalization without conditions between the United States and Cuba. In many ways the same as President Nixon did with Chairman Mao in China. Clearing the air with the Cuban Government , will allow the full force of Americans and Cuban Americans to re-build in the private sector – trade , economic development – especially at USA Gulf Ports – and commerce with Cuba. Tourism will again flourish and the Cubans in Cuba will have the opportunity to make money – in a more normal manner. Some will say that this will only help the Castro Government . Like Florida where we will have 90 million tourists visitors in 2013 and where our Agriculture is strong because we can export to all States and the World our sugar , orange and grapefruit juice , winter fruits and vegetables and even beef cattle – Florida will become an economic model and eventual reality in Cuba with a shared economic Zone . This takes vision and leadership , as well as the humanitarian understanding that two way travel and two way trade will lift the lives of Cubans in Cuba , once and for . Once this process is started – we will be on the road to becoming with very best of friends with the Cubans just south of Florida . The key question is – will Cuba have the opportunity to become more like Florida’s economy , or will Florida become more like Cuba ? The path for American Statesmanship and the President to do the right thing is now . John Parke Wright IV Naples, Florida

Nov 09, 2013 4:54pm GMT  --  Report as abuse
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